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01st Apr 2022

The exit door continues to swing in Tyrone as more players opt out of the panel

Lee Costello

Seven players have now left the panel.

Since reaching the promise land last September and winning their fourth ever All-Ireland title, Tyrone have struggled to hang on to some of the players who helped achieve this feat.

Player’s leaving or retiring after a season, successful or not, is nothing out of the ordinary for county panels, but the increasing volume of players choosing to give up their jersey for Tyrone is concerning.

Ronan O’Neill was one of the first to call time on his career in the red and white, for now at least, and it was understandable as to why he made this decision.

The sharp shooter had been involved with the senior panel for a decade, and although gave so much of his life to the cause last season, was still left out of the match day 26 for the All-Ireland final.

Shortly afterwards, Tiernan McCann opted out of the squad, a disappointing move for Tyrone fans, for although his role mostly came from the bench last season, he has been a mainstay in that half back line in recent years.

Most notably was his terrific performance against Donegal last summer, when he came off the bench to kick some key scores as he bombed forward from half-back, blazing past defenders in the blistering heat.

Mark Bradley soon followed, a player who although started in the Ulster final win over Monaghan, didn’t see any game time in the All-Ireland final against Mayo.

Ardboe’s Michael Cassidy would have been one of Mickey Harte’s main choices for midfield, but the rise of Brian Kennedy and Conn Kilpatrick under the new management, seen Cassidy’s role reduced, and a key reason as to why he left.

Kieran McGeary was enjoying the season of his life, picking up the Player of The Year award, and his brother, Hugh Pat McGeary was also on the panel, but not enjoying the same game time.

When he told management he wouldn’t be committing this year, Brian Dooher showed him a picture of himself and brother Kieran lifting the Sam Maguire, saying that no matter what he will always have that to show for his time with Tyrone.

The next two departures are the most disappointing, because they happened during the season, so they obviously made the commitment at the beginning of the year, but changed their mind afterwards.

Trillick’s Lee Brennan enjoyed a decent McKenna Cup run in January, but was rarely brought into the fold throughout the league campaign.

When Tyrone suffered four suspensions after the controversial loss to Armagh, many assumed he would be brought in but this was not the case, and ultimately broke the camel’s back, as the flying forward declared he would be leaving the team.

Then just last night, with the McKenna Cup done, and the league campaign tied up and all eyes shifting towards championship, Paul Donaghy announced he is also leaving the panel.

In a condensed season, with the knockout stages of championship football looming, this one really is a head scratcher, especially as he was brought on in games more often than not, and enjoyed a few starts as well.

Obviously there is more to it than just game time, and each of these players could have loads of different valid and personal reasons as to why they left, but the numbers which are leaving, are reaching bizarre proportions.

Brian Dooher and Feargal Logan won’t be panicking as I’m sure they will say there’s an abundance of talent in the Red Hand county, and there most definitely is.

However, if you were to ask them honestly, would they be in a better position if the seven now absentees had remained, undoubtedly the answer would be yes.

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