New faces eager to impress for Tyrone

JANUARY blues? Not for Tyrone – they’re the reigning All-Ireland champions and at the time of writing are enjoying themselves in Orlando, Florida.

That’s why Tyrone are the last team to take to the field in this year’s McKenna Cup, where they’ll play Cavan at Kingspan Breffni on Tuesday before taking on Armagh on Saturday evening.

Tyrone fans already had a glimpse of some new faces when they faced the Orchard county in a special charity match a fortnight ago.

There were a wealth of debutants that night, while a couple of others didn’t feature as they’re rehabbing at the moment. Emmett McNabb, who was top scorer in the Tyrone Club Championship, is understood to be involved at present, while Padraig McNulty, who stepped back from the county team in 2018, has returned to the fold after some brilliant performances in the middle of the field for Dungannon Clarkes in the last few years.

It’ll be fascinating to see whether he can budge Brian Kennedy or Conn Kilpatrick from the middle of the field, and Richie Donnelly will also be looking to nail down a certain berth after his 2021 season was curtailed by injury and Covid-19 – one thing’s for sure, Tyrone certainly aren’t lacking in options in the moment.

A few players have, however, left the panel. Ronan O’Neill, Hugh Pat McGeary and Michael Cassidy struggled for game-time last season and have moved on as a result. It seems as if elder statesmen like Peter Harte and Ronan McNamee have committed for another year, however.

Tyrone have had an astounding record in the McKenna Cup in the last decade – so much so that it almost became a source of amusement. It’ll be interesting to see whether Feargal Logan and Brian Dooher will take it as seriously as their predecessor Mickey Harte, but it’ll likely prove useful as they have a large panel at the moment which will be whittled down over the coming weeks.

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