IF you pretend last year’s ‘Coma in Omagh’ never happened, which shouldn’t be difficult, has there ever been less hoopla about a game between Tyrone and Dublin?
Usually the very idea of this pairing is enough to warm the cockles, but not on this occasion.
The Red Hands have been written off by all and sundry in the wake of their 19-point defeat to Galway at the weekend, while the serious injury sustained by the talismanic Cathal McShane was, putting it mildly, a dreadful stroke of luck. Generally Tyrone come out fighting when their backs are pinned against the wall, but it’s difficult to piece together an argument that they’ll turn things around in the space of six days.
For one thing, they’re shorn of attacking options with McShane and Mattie Donnelly sidelined with injury, while Connor McAliskey is taking a leave of absence at the moment.
We caught up with the Clonoe marksman last week – read the full feature inteview in this week’s Gaelic Life – and he said that Tyrone won’t carry any sort of inferiority complex into the Dublin match despite losing all their recent championship games.
“There was never any fear of Dublin. We knew how good they are, but we felt as strong and as powerful and as skilful. Every year we set out to win the All-Ireland, and we’ve made appearances in semi-finals and the final. I’ve always felt the team has been close and I imagine the team will have the same targets this same this year.”
McAliskey admits as well he still racks his brains wondering what he and the team could have done differently in their All-Ireland final defeat to Dublin in 2018.
“Getting back into club football helped a bit but I ended up dislocating my ankle so that didn’t go particularly well. I haven’t got round to watching the game, it’s on my to-do list, but I have spent a lot of time sitting back thinking on it.
“We were close and it’s something you have to learn from Dublin are a great team but we did make mistakes. I think any player who loses an All-Ireland final will look back and analyse it.
“It’s something you always think about. You won’t let it affect your preparations for your next game but you do think about how close you were and always try to learn from it.”
The Clonoe marksman also said he’s happy with his decision to take a sabbatical from the intercounty game.
McAliskey quit the panel back in November as he didn’t feel “physically” or “mentally” prepared to commit for the current season.
Speaking last week, he said that he has no regrets about his decision.
“My decision was made due to the fact I needed a physical and mental break from it all. The commitment was tough. I dislocated my ankle in 2017 and then I dislocated my knee as well, and with my personal life as well I didn’t think I was able to commit.”
Tyrone fans will still have an opportunity to watch McAliskey strut his stuff this year, however, as he’s still commited to his club Clonoe, who are under the stewardship of Armagh legend Stevie McDonnell at the moment.
“I’m still playing away with my club. Stevie’s in with us and we’re starting to play club friendlies and I’m really enjoying that side of things.
“It’s helping to get the enjoyment factor back, and that’s something that had probably been lost with the physical and mental commitment.”