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27th Jun 2023

Story of teenage Darren McCurry taking on Tyrone legend in training tells you all you need to know

Lee Costello

Darren McCurry

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“He was marking Conor Gormley, so it was a baptism of fire for him.”

The story of a teenage Darren McCurry taking on one of the biggest legends in Tyrone’s history during training, tells you everything you need to know.

Stephen O’Neill had three All-Irelands, two All-Stars, a Player of the Year award and was captain of Tyrone when a young whipper snapper called McCurry came into the Tyrone panel.

Known as Dazzler the young but confident sharp shooter walked into a training session that was littered with icons of the game, and managed by none other than the legendary Mickey Harte.

Of course we know what McCurry can do now, as we watched him terrorise defences for years, and reach his peak in the 2021 season when he scored 1-4 in the All-Ireland final and lifted the Man of the Match award.

Darren McCurry

But everything is easy in hindsight, it’s the skill of foresight that matters most, and when this skinny kid from Edendork rocked up to this training session that would have been an autograph hunters dream, O’Neill knew they had something special on their hands.

“I can remember the first time Darren came into the panel,” O’Neill said on the GAA Hour.

“At difference stages Mickey (Harte) would have brought in different players, just to fill out different teams in training, and even just to have a look at lads up against county lads.

Darren McCurry

“I remember his first training session in Clogher, he was marking Conor Gormley, so it was a baptism of fire for him, and he finished with about 1-5.

“Conor was our best man-marker by a mile for so many years, so once that happened you suddenly said, Jesus this. boy can play, and he’s gone on to do greater things.”

For context, Gormley was one of the most feared defenders in Gaelic football, and not only does he have three All-Irelands and three All-Stars in his back pocket, but a handful of star players as well.

Usually tasked with marking the marquee names like Colm Cooper, Bernard Brogan, and Oisin McConville, the Carrickmore man came up against the best, and beat the best.

The stalwart was also known to use the darker arts when it came to defending, and wouldn’t think twice about getting in your ear when you make a mistake, or sneaking an extra dig when tackling, so for McCurry to still dazzle like only the Dazzler can, without a whiff of fear – that told you everything you needed to know about the man.

Outside of the skills, scores and silky moves, the gun slinger is the ultimate professional when it comes to looking after himself, and his personality is an added bonus to the dressing room.

Darren McCurryConor Gormley was one of the best man-markers in the game

“He’s just a great lad, a brilliant fella around the dressing room, he’s full of bubbliness and confidence, but confidence in a nice way

“He can take a joke, he can give it, he’s just a great lad, and we never had any doubt that he was going to go on to be one of the top forwards in Ireland, and to ever represent Tyrone, and he’s shown that.

“I think he’s a great role model for any youngster, he always would be practising, left, right foot, he takes pride in his game, and in his fitness work.

“He’s constantly top of the fitness tests, or most of the fitness tests at the Tyrone would be doing. He’s a great role model, he doesn’t drink, he doesn’t smoke, and is just a real example for any young footballer.”

Darren McCurry

One of the biggest testaments to McCurry’s character is the fact that his career did not go on the clear upward trajectory that many expected.

After initially bursting onto the scene, he struggled to maintain a starting place, particularly as the team reverted to a more defensive, running style of play.

The 2021 All-Star even took a year out in 2018 to reassess things, before returning to the panel with fresh perspective, and now under the guidance of Brian Dooher and Feargal Logan, he has, and still is, fulfilling his incredible potential.

Listen to Stephen O’Neill in studio, as he chats to the two lads about last weekend’s action, his incredible county career, and all of the latest talking points on the GAA Hour.


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