National League Division One
Tyrone v Meath
Sunday, Healy Park, 2pm
By Niall Gartland
IT’S easy to forget that new Tyrone recruit Daniel Kerr is still only 21 years of age.
Two years ago he captained Galbally to their first ever Grade One U21 championship while still a teenager.
The members of that particular group had been talked up as something special since they were in their final days at primary school, and three of them – Kerr, Liam Rafferty and Conor Quinn – now spend their free-time training and playing for Tyrone’s senior team.
That’s nothing out of the ordinary for some clubs, but we’ll hedge our bets and assume that calling upon three senior intercounty players all at the one time is an unprecedented achievement for the Pearses.
Kerr was drafted into the set-up at the tail-end of last year on the back of his performances for Galbally in achieving a historic league and championship double.
Cub football is one thing and representing your county quite another, but the fact he’s been out and about and has experience playing against the Peter Hartes and Mattie Donnellys of this world made joining the set-up a little less nerve-racking. He’s also had experience of playing with Tyrone teams at underage level, so that’s made the transition easier as well.
Kerr said: “I still would have known most of the boys just from playing against them with the club. They’re very welcoming and civil. I haven’t felt any real pressure, it’s a different team and environment but it’s still been very enjoyable. Liam was on the panel last year as well, I get on well with him but I’d only have spoken to him briefly about it.”
Kerr admits it’s always been ambition of his to line out for the county. Not an uncommon aspiration, particularly in a football-mad county like Tyrone, but some encouraging displays in the McKenna Cup suggest he could be sticking around for another while yet.
“As a young lad you always want to play for Tyrone. I think every young lad’s the same.
“Growing up I always wanted to play well with Galbally and I suppose things lead from that. That’s as much as there is to it but it’s still exciting.”
Galbally club members will be delighted that three of their players have been drafted into the Tyrone panel, but under the surface they may be concerned that it will have a detrimental impact when the All-County League gets up and running again.
The Moy, for instance, underachieved during the noughties despite calling upon the Cavanagh brothers, Philip Jordan and Ryan Mellon, while Pomeroy never really got going last season until the return of their county men.
Kerr isn’t at all concerned, however, even if he imagines it’ll take a couple of seasons for them to catch up with the big guns in Division One.
“We’re not just going up there to make up the numbers. That’s the plan anyway – we want to be successful. We have a young team so we’re not getting ahead of ourselves but hopefully after a few years we’ll be challengers.
“I don’t think we’ve had three Galbally men on the Tyrone team before. If you want to be pushing the top teams in Division One, it’s a good thing to have a few men on the county panel.
“I don’t think there’ll be any sort of negative impact on the club, we’ve a big club and everyone on the panel is able to do their bit. I think players will slot in seamlessly if we’re unavailable.”
Even though Galbally played at Intermediate level this season, they had the cut of a senior team with so many lean and athletic players in their ranks.
“We’ve been lucky to have great managers down the years in Galbally. There’s a level of professionalism in both Galbally and Tyrone. Tyrone’s a slight step-up but we’re very lucky to have Kevin and John.
“It’s been tough but really enjoyable, but hopefully I’ll make the league and championship panels and take it from there.”
Kerr says that the Galbally players are starting to come to terms with their Ulster Intermediate final defeat to Magheracloone. It was a stain on an otherwise perfect season, but it’d be churlish to complain too much given what they achieved in Tyrone, achieving promotion as well as their first adult championship title in half a century.
“At the time it was obviously hard to take, it’s never nice losing a final especially an Ulster final. As the dust settles we can still look back on a very good season, it was beyond our expectations.
“At the start of the year our aim was just to get back to Division One, we did the double so we have to be happy with that.”