GAA: Tyrone’s McKenna aiming for big things in NFL

Tyrone's Niall McKenna�cerebrates scoring a goal against Derry.
Tyrone's Niall McKenna�cerebrates scoring a goal against Derry.

Tyrone begin their National Football League campaign this Sunday in Celtic Park, Derry on the back of four wins from four games in the McKenna Cup.

With the cancellation of Saturday’s final with Cavan, the Red Hands will face Derry in back to back games, aiming to once again get the better of Brian McIver’s men.

Connor McAliskey�bullies his way past Derry's Gerard O'Kane and Conor Clarke.

Connor McAliskey�bullies his way past Derry's Gerard O'Kane and Conor Clarke.

One man who will be hoping to nail down a place in the starting team over the course of the National League will be Donaghmore’s Niall McKenna.

Having risen to prominence firstly with St Patrick’s Academy and then on the Tyrone minor team which claimed the 2008 All Ireland Minor title, much was expected of McKenna at senior.

Having already had a spell in the Tyrone squad, McKenna’s returning to the side after a break, a break the Donaghmore man feels the break may have done him some good:

“The break did me a bit of good. It’s a younger team now than when I left it, there was an age gap in the squad. From my own point of view I’m probably a wee bit more comfortable.

“I know what it takes now. I’d gone in straight out of minors and you were sort of looking at all these All Stars and your playing time was few and far between.

“Coming into the squad the first time it was a big step up. Coming in now, you were in, seen what it was like, I was out of it for a year and you know what it takes. It’s made it a bit easier.

“I’m getting a more consistent run this time, hopefully I can push on.”

McKenna played a big part in Tyrone’s McKenna Cup campaign, Mickey Harte seeking to use his mobility at midfield to assist Tyrone win the kick out battle.

McKenna and Conan Grugan had a ferocious battle with Fergal Doherty and Niall Holly in the McKenna Cup semi-final with the Derry pair impressing.

They could well meet again in Saturday evening’s opener.

“I’m sure the teams won’t be too different but we should have a few boys coming back.

“The teams might be similar but it’s up in Celtic Park and we don’t have a great record up there so it should be a bit more intense I’d say.”