Depleted Tyrone bring in McCurry for injured O’Neill to face Offaly in Tullamore

Young forward’s introduction only one of several changes forced on manager Harte

In theory, Mickey Harte's Tyrone should glide into Tullamore tomorrow afternoon and gather enough scores to end Offaly's summer. Doing that without former footballer of the year Stephen O'Neill, regular free-taker Niall Morgan, Dermot Carlin, the recently retired PJ Quinn and, perhaps most worrying of all, the McMahon brothers, appears to have levelled the playing field.

O’Neill, a three-time All Star dating back to 2001, has barely trained since slipping on a water bottle and twisting his ankle moments before Tyrone’s national league final defeat to Dublin on April 28th but he’s believed to be more concerned with an Achilles tendon problem.

Either way, the 32-year-old is replaced in the full-forward line by Darren McCurry.

The latest young talent in Tyrone's attack was spared the chastising experience of losing to Ulster and All-Ireland champions Donegal in May but has since done enough to get selected ahead of Kyle Coney.


Harte has also been forced to trust the next generation by giving debuts to Ryan McKenna at corner back, Danny McBride at full back, while Ciarán McGinley is at wing forward.

McKenna gets his chance because Quinn felt the need to retire to focus on his day job as a self-employed tiler. Harte has stated the door remains open should he wish to return training.

"It was very disappointing to hear that PJ has left the panel, because personally, I know him well over the past few years," said Cathal McCarron, one of the few frontline defenders.

“It’s a blow to the team, because he’s a very good defender. The door is not closed to him if he wants to come back, but we’ll not have him for the Offaly game anyway.

“And with Dermy (Carlin) being out as well with a broken nose, we’re limited, but there’s three or four very good defenders, the likes of Aidan McCrory and Danny McBride, all fighting for places. We have plenty of back-up, put it like that.”

At least the absence of Morgan, due to a knee injury, is offset by the return of two-time All-Ireland winning goalkeeper Pascal McConnell.

The McMahon brothers, Joe and Justin, are named as reserves but ankle and groin injuries sustained in a club game for Omagh St Endas three weeks ago have not sufficiently cleared up. Joe could be called upon if the situation gets desperate.

Chief playmaker Peter Harte is named at centre back but will inevitably roam out the field.

Offaly are not without their own problems with Michael Brazil, Johnny Moloney and Brian Connor heading off to the United States of America after defeat to Kildare in the Leinster championship on June 1st.

Anton Sullivan (shoulder) is also unavailable and a few players must still pass fitness tests.

The panel was boosted by the arrival of hurlers Shane Doley, Dan Currams, Seán Ryan and Conor McMahon at training this week, although none of them are expected to start against Tyrone.

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent