Crooked nose is the least of Dermot Carlin’s worries

Tyrone central defender’s biggest concern right now is coping with the Mayo forwards in Sunday’s All-Ireland football semi-final against Mayo

Dermot Carlin will be a vital part of Tyrone defence, even with a broken nose. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Dermot Carlin will be a vital part of Tyrone defence, even with a broken nose. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Thu, Aug 22, 2013, 01:00

Most players have picked up little souvenirs of the championship by now – a bruised shoulder, a scar across the knee, a broken toe nail – and Dermot Carlin is proudly wearing his on the front of his face.

If he was any way vain about it then Carlin might have been to a plastic surgeon by now, but instead he happily points to his crooked nose and smiles.

“I will get it sorted soon, hopefully,” he says. “It was straightened up a bit, but I’ve had more bangs on it, so I’ll not worry about it at this stage.”

Indeed Carlin’s biggest worry right now is coping with the Mayo forwards in Sunday’s All-Ireland football semi-final: as one of Tyrone’s central defenders (he started at corner back in the quarter-final win over Monaghan, but is equally adept in the number six shirt), there will be no easy task on Sunday, no matter who he marks, particularly given 13 different Mayo players scored in their quarter-final win over Donegal.

It was back on May 26th, during Tyrone’s Ulster quarter-final against Donegal, when Carlin first got his nose knocked out of place, in an accidental clash with Paddy McBrearty: that was bad enough but moments later the same two players clashed heads, and Carlin required some sideline stapling to keep the blood flow in check.

“It was nothing really,” he recalls. “Just as Paddy was going to shoot I came across him to block him, he swung back an arm to steady himself, and I was just unlucky. And then just two minutes later, after I had got patched up and come back on, the two of us went for a ball down the line and we clashed heads, and I had to get staples in.

‘Protective mask’
“Then stupidly I went and played for the club three weeks later. I had a protective mask on, but I got another elbow, and the whole mask slipped across, so the nose broke again. I decided not to get it fixed a second time, so it meant that I was able to play two weeks sooner.”

Carlin had a few reasons not to delay his return to training, despite the need for a nose job: he’d already been nursing an Achilles tendon injury, and such is the intense competition for starting places within the Tyrone panel that an extended lay-off might have seen him miss out on the rest of the summer.

“I was training with a hurling helmet on for a couple of weeks, because the protective mask was no good. But I had to be doing some sort of work because it does not matter what you are doing on your own, it is not the same as being in doing a bit of competitive stuff. It was bad timing, with the qualifier games coming week after week. I was just unlucky but then I have had an unlucky year. I did ligaments in my knee playing in the McKenna Cup, and didn’t play again until the league semi-final. I played in the league final and had to go off at half-time injured, and didn’t play again until the Donegal game. Then I got 10 minutes and had to leave again.”

Pulled down
It means the quarter-final win over Monaghan brought him his first 70 minutes of the summer, and as if that wasn’t memorable enough, Carlin was the man charged with marking Conor McManus, the player pulled down by Seán Cavanagh in that now notorious rugby-style tackle.

Like Cavanagh himself, however, Carlin is being respectfully light-hearted about the incident: “Seán just said if I had stayed on my feet none of this would have happened. I was out in front by a couple of yards and I went to turn and I slipped and down I went.”

At 29, and having made his senior debut back in 2002, Carlin is one of the veterans of Mickey Harte’s panel. It hasn’t been an a consistent run, however, and after winning his first All-Ireland in 2003, Carlin missed the 2005 success, as he spent that summer in America.

Carlin is well placed to compare the Tyrone 2013 version with other years, and the one thing he singles out is strength in depth: “If you look back to 2008, we sort of had a 15 and that was it. Same in 2005. This year it’s far more open. Mickey has been saying all year that if you do it in training you’ll get your chance. It means that everybody is trying like mad in training.”