RETIRING AFL star Conor McKenna needs to be parachuted into the Tyrone team because of a dearth of naturally gifted players on Mickey Harte’s panel.
That’s the argument of former Tyrone player Sean McLaughlin, who was the man who struck the notoriously disallowed point in the 1995 final against Dublin.
McLaughlin, who has been living in Cork for two decades, is delighted by the news of McKenna’s imminent return to Irish soil – and he hopes that he’ll be donning the red and white of Tyrone as soon as possible.
McKenna called an abrupt halt to his seven-year career with AFL Club Essendon earlier in the week.
The Eglish man, who starred in Tyrone’s run to an All-Ireland minor final in 2013, had made a great career for himself down under, but his troubles with homesickness were well-documented.
Some intrusive media coverage following a suspected coronavirus diagnosis didn’t help matters, and he struggled for form in the last few months before announcing his retirement on Tuesday after 79 appearances for the Bombers.
McLaughlin commented: “I think home’s the best place for him. Hopefully he’ll be back playing for Tyrone, they need as many good players as we can.
“When they won their three All-Irelands, every player was top notch – even the subs coming on – whereas now they don’t have the Mugsys or the Canavans.
“They still have one or two stand-out players like Mattie Donnelly but they’re not a strong as unit as they used to be.”
With collective intercounty training permitted again from Monday, Tyrone fans will wonder whether McKenna will play any part with a massive Ulster Championship quarter-final tie scheduled for October 31/November 1. McLaughlin certainly hopes so.
“If he’s coming home he’ll have to do something. Gaelic Football is his first love so I hope he’ll be there anyway.”
McKenna himself says Eglish will be his initial priority – but one imagines it mightn’t be too long before he gets the call from Mickey Harte.
Speaking after the news of his retirement broke, McKenna said: “I’ll probably fly home next week, I’m going to go to Sydney first and see a few friends for a few days.
“I’ll have to get a job for the first time. I’ll go work with my dad or look into a bit of university, and then start playing Gaelic again, which is something I’ve really, really looked forward to doing since I’ve first come over here. It’s something I’m really looking forward to getting back involved again.
“I’ll be going back to my club first. I’ll have to quarantine again, but after that I’ll be back out on the Gaelic pitch and I’ll take it from there.”
McLaughlin also said that he’s delighted that the rest of the country has got a glimpse into the all-action world of Tyrone Club football. RTE broadcast a thrilling senior championship semi-final double header on Saturday evening, and the Drumquin native was particularly pleased that massive underdogs Dungannon have made the final for the first time since 1986.
“I’m delighted for Dungannon because that town has suffered enough over the years. They look a very good, physical team but Trillick look good as well so it should be an interesting final.
“Tyrone football is looking very good on camera at the minute, Pat Spillane is saying nice things about us so it must be good.”