McCann shines as Tyrone progress

Thursday, 1 June 2017

McCann shines as Tyrone progress thumbnailConall McCann in action for Tyrone against Derry in the Ulster Senior Football Championship quarter final at Celtic Park, Derry.

CONALL McCann was the big success story of Celtic Park on Sunday. Making his first championship start, the 25-year-old seized his opportunity in spectacular fashion, making a huge contribution to Tyrone's 11 points Ulster SFC quarter-final win.

McCann, younger brother of established star Tiernan, said he was delighted with his display at midfield.

He was a towering presence throughout, and chipped in with a couple of excellent points as well.

"Things probably couldn't have gone better for me today. There was only one shot that I had which I was disappointed with, but all in all I'm happy with my performance," he said.

"It's important to get off on the front foot in your debut. Thankfully Colm (Cavanagh) won the ball and thankfully I was able to get on the ball from early. There were a few nerves beforehand, but it's not a hard team to come into with all the experienced players.

"We had a couple of in-house games last weekend and the weekend before. A few players are just basically saying to Mickey Harte that they want to play and I was one of those. I'm thankful that he showed his faith in playing me because this is a seriously competitive squad."

The Killyclogher man added: "Even in midfield, I'm competing against four other players. Thankfully, I got that chance and it's my jersey to lose now. Coming off the back of a good club season and the Sigerson, I have that confidence now where I'm not happy sitting on the bench and I just want to show people that I'm good enough to play at this level. "That chance has come now, but this is just one match. We'll have plenty more this year and the hope for me will be to show Mickey (Harte) the talents that I have."

But he warned that Donegal will be a much tougher nut to crack when they meegin the semi-final at Clones on Sunday fortnight.

"Donegal are going to be a massive test. They have had a couple of big name retirements, but they've also got a couple of good U-21 players coming through that I've seen. They're producing great talent.

"It was a bad defeat for us the last time we played them and we need to really show the Tyrone fans that what was displayed back then (in the National League) isn't us and that there's a new different team going to be lining out in three weeks.

"We had a few players coming off the bench and the likes of Darren McCurry and David Mulgrew getting a few points it shows again that players want to be on the starting team. Boys are showing on the training field that they are good enough to play, and that includes even some of the players who weren't in the first 26 today.

"I've been in that position and know how tough it is. It's important that the rest of the squad all pull together and go in the right direction."

Meanwhile, skipper Sean Cavanagh warned that the semi-final clash with Donegal will be a much tougher proposition.

"We have to be sure that we know it's not going to be like this in three weeks time. Donegal blew us out of the water up in Ballybofey that Saturday night in the league, and they're not going to give us the space that we got in Celtic Park," he said.

"It will be a typical Ulster battle and we have to be ready for it. We can't get carried away. We have the ground to make up on Donegal. They will fancy their chances with this new team they have and the way they played in the National League, and rightly so.

"So it's all there for us to go and prove ourselves again, we're going to look forward to that, and it's one rung of that Ulster Championship again."

Derry were expected to show greater resistance, having crashed to a heavy defeat to the Red Hands at the same venue last year, but once again their challenge was weak.

"We were expecting a physical Ulster encounter. It maybe just didn't materialise.

The early scores probably knocked the stuffing out of them to a certain extent," said Cavanagh.

"With nice playing conditions and some of the talent and some of the speed that we had coming off the bench, whenever we needed to kick on, we got those scores, and it probably worked out a bit easier than what we had anticipated."

Damian Barton's side lacked the pace and dynamism that Tyrone displayed on the counter-attack, and that was a key difference in the sides.

"I suppose we have been playing it a bit longer than they have been playing it.

"The nucleus of this squad has probably been trying to perfect that way of playing since 2013 at this stage.

"So we're maybe slightly ahead of them in terms of that evolution, and they have had a right few turnovers in players in the last couple of years.

"Coming away from the game, it's a job done for us, and I suspect Derry will be disappointed in the way they performed.

"We came away this time last year and Derry came through the back door and were a kick away from doing what Tipperary did, and could potentially have found themselves in the semi-final of an All-Ireland.

"So all is not lost for them, and all is not gained for us, but we're through the hurdle.

"We know it's not going to be anywhere near as easy against Donegal in there weeks time, but at least we're there, and we'll keep our heads down until then."


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