DUNGANNON Clarkes face a block-buster clash against Trillick in the curtain-raiser to the Tyrone Senior Championship tonight (Thursday), and it remains to be seen whether their talismanic midfielder Padraig McNulty will play in the contest.
McNulty, who returned to the Tyrone team earlier in the season after a three-year absence, suffered a serious arm injury while playing in a National League clash against Donegal, and nearly seven months later has yet to start another game for club or county.
He played a few minutes from the bench in Dungannon’s final league match of the campaign, so he’s edging closer to a full return, but team manager Chris Rafferty feels for the big midfielder, who captained the side to that unforgettable O’Neill Cup triumph in 2020.
“It’s hard to say how Padraig will fare and I’m not being cryptic. He was able to come on for the last few minutes against Loughmacrory and came through a couple of challenge games as well. He’s getting there but he was a long time out of action and we’re conscious we don’t want to rush him.
“He’s had no luck at all, the way things worked out he wasn’t part of Feargal and Brian’s plans last year which was a pity as he would’ve got an All-Ireland out of it. Then he came in this year when the Tyrone lads were probably a bit fatigued and he ended up getting injured. He’s had no luck whatsoever.”
Echoing recent comments made by Frank McGuigan on the subject of week-day matches, Rafferty also says he would prefer if Tyrone Championship games were restricted to the weekend.
He feels fairly strongly about it and feels that the Tyrone County Board should assess the issue for next year.
“Frank shoots from the hip but to be honest he has a point. Anybody playing championship football on a Thursday evening has no choice but to take a half day at the least. You can’t get from Dungannon to Omagh and be fully focused and prepared otherwise.
“It’s unfortunate and I’ve begun to think it’s something that has to be looked at. If we’re playing at 7.30pm in Omagh, we have to be there at least an hour early at the bare minimum. You can’t really work to 4.30pm and then come up the road. It’s the same for Trillick lads, you really need to be focused on a game from earlier in the day.”