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McCurry Explains Why He Didn't Enjoy Playing For Tyrone Under Harte

McCurry Explains Why He Didn't Enjoy Playing For Tyrone Under Harte
By PJ Browne Updated

Darren McCurry says it has been "a wee bit surprising" to see six Tyrone players step away from the panel since the county's All-Ireland final win last year.

It was reported last week that Lee Brennan has joined Tiernan McCann, Michael Cassidy, Hugh Pat McGeary, Ronan O'Neill and Mark Bradley in departing the group.

"When you're trying to do something that a Tyrone team has never done, doing back-to-backs, it's very important to have your full team, and everybody putting in the full effort," McCurry told the BBC Sport NI's The GAA Social Podcast.

"If I was one of those boys in the 26, my frame of mind would have been, 'Let's go back and try to do something no other team in Tyrone has done'.

"I just felt that it was maybe, what way would you put it, an easy decision for some of them boys to walk away. Maybe they're thinking a wee bit more about themselves than the Tyrone team, and the people of Tyrone."

McCurry knows what it's like to step away from the Tyrone panel. He did so ahead of the 2018 championship, though he returned for the 2019 season. In 2018, he simply wasn't enjoying playing under Mickey Harte.

17 July 2016; Darren McCurry of Tyrone celebrates with supporters following the Ulster GAA Football Senior Championship Final match between Donegal and Tyrone at St Tiernach's Park in Clones, Co Monaghan. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

"That was probably one of the toughest decisions that I ever had to make in my life," he said.

"It was something that I thought about for two months before I made that decision. I would still think about it. I always had it in the back of my head that I would come back. I knew I'd come back. I was not in the right frame of mind; I wasn't enjoying it, and I just didn't want to be there.

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"I wasn't happy. I wasn't playing well. I just felt like I wasn't myself. I said in an interview after the All-Ireland final that I need to get back to being The Dazzler. I'd lost all my confidence. I wasn't playing well for myself, and when that was happening, I knew something had to change.

"I suppose I wasn't getting any confidence. I wasn't playing. Mickey wasn't saying anything to me, he wasn't really giving me confidence. The backroom team maybe wasn't giving me any.

"A forward needs confidence. Without confidence, you'll not take on a shot, you'll not try a dummy. I think for a forward, without that, you're an average player."

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After Tyrone won the All-Ireland last year, his club Edendork had a night to celebrate their three players on the panel. Former Dublin manager Jim Gavin was in attendance.

"Jim Gavin was asked about forwards,", said McCurry, "and he says 'My method was creating an environment for the forwards to play well in'. I felt that's something Mickey never really did for the forwards.

I found that I had to change my game. The three forwards, we were putting up mental scores in GPS, getting the highest throughout the team. That was due to tracking back. We were tracking back 90m, and then we were having to sprint another 90m to get back into position. By the time I got the ball, I hadn't the legs to put it over. I am one of the fittest people in Tyrone.

McCurry said he did not feel "hard done by" under Harte but admitted that had the three-time All-Ireland winning manager remained in charge for the 2021 season, he would have stepped away once again.

"It was definitely tough," said McCurry.

"I know when I'm playing well, and when I'm not playing well. When I was playing well, even in training and in games, I still wasn't starting; if I made a mistake, I'd be the first man off. Confidence just goes right down to rock bottom.

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"I remember we were playing Derry in Celtic Park, and Sparky (Mark Bradley) got injured in the first 20 minutes. I came on and maybe kicked five points. I had a really good game. Confidence was high. We played Cavan next. I said, 'I'm definitely starting here. Sparky is still injured'.

"Mickey came up to me on the Tuesday, and he says, 'You're down to start this weekend but I'm not starting you. I want to throw a curve ball at them. Cavan are going to think you'll be starting, and we're going to throw something different at them but I don't want anybody to know so you can't tell anybody'. I says, 'Alright, whatever's best for the team'.

"On the Thursday, he names the team. All the players think I'm starting, shaking my hand, 'Good man, good to see you back in. You're flying'.

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"I didn't even tell my dad. You can imagine what that does for a player's confidence. Then, having to come on and make an impact.

"In 2020, Donegal beat us. I felt I was having a great first half that day. I think I gave the ball away once and was took off. I just couldn't get my head around this.

"To be honest, if Mickey had been there the following year, I would have left. I just felt that no matter what I did, I was going to be the boy that was going to be taken off. It was just a constant battle in my own head, going 'What do I need to do?', feeling under pressure all the time."

11 September 2021; Conn Kilpatrick and Darren McCurry of Tyrone lifts the Sam Maguire Cup following the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Mayo and Tyrone at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

McCurry was one of Tyrone's star players in their 2021 All-Ireland title win. He was Man of the Match in the All-Ireland final against Mayo and later won his first All-Star.

The 29-year-old said he knew when it was announced in late 2020 that Brian Dooher and Feargal Logan would be taking over from Mickey Harte that Tyrone would win an All-Ireland under the joint managers.

"I remember reading Mugsy's book. He said he was up on top of a roof working, and it was said on the radio that Mickey Harte was going to be manager. He said he knew straight away that they were going to win an All-Ireland," said McCurry.

"That was the exact same for me when I heard that Brian and Feargal were going to be involved. I 100 per cent knew Tyrone were going to win an All-Ireland. I just knew we had the players, the forwards, and I knew that I was going to play, and very hard to stop - you might say that's cocky but it's confidence in the work that I've done. I knew there would be more of an attacking style.

"When I didn't start or come on in the first game against Monaghan, on the Monday night I was down that pitch thinking, 'I am going to show them'. I was just so driven and motivated, just to prove a point that I was good enough.

"Playing now, I feel like I have more energy. I know my role 100 per cent is to stay up the field, and make them hard runs, get the ball and put it over the bar or create something."

See Also: Cooper Questions Tyrone Discipline After Hampsey Red Card

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