It was announced today that Brian Dooher has committed himself to another year of service to the Tyrone cause. The Clan na Gael man will be starting his sixteenth year as an inter county senior footballer in 2011 and considering the nature of the modern game and his personal style of play, that is an achievement of some note. The Tyrone captain is renowned for his punishing training regime and high levels of fitness. He has also shown himself to be a key component of Mickey Harte’s three All Ireland winning squads.
Dooher was in fine form throughout the Ulster Championship this year and appeared to roll back the years with a virtuoso display against Monaghan in the provincial final. However in the All Ireland Quarter Final he found it difficult to stay with the pace of the game as Dublin ended Tyrone’s hopes of a fourth All Ireland title. At times he cut a forlorn figure on the pitch as he appeared to be struggling to cope with Dublin’s hunger and style of play.
It turns out he is not the only older member of the squad to commit to another year with the news that Ryan Mc Menamin, Brian Mc Guigan, Kevin Hughes and Philip Jordan have all indicated that they will be making themselves available to the manager for the new season.
The big question of course for Mickey Harte, and to some extent for the player himself, is the extent to which his talents are employed next year. Brian Dooher is not getting any younger and he has been through a lot in terms of injuries and knocks over the years. Whether or not he is capable of retaining his starting place on the team will depend on his form and fitness and I would not expect to see him feature much before May. Personally I would love to see him used sparingly in games particularly early in the season and even then mostly as an impact sub who can come on and lift his team mates and the supporters. So many games are won and lost in the last quarter and to be able to bring such an influential and experienced player from the bench would be a huge boost for any team. How many times have we seen important matches decided by the hard winning of the dirty ball late on?
In my view there is no one better in Ireland at that than Brian Dooher. He is a rare talent whose experience and leadership can make a massive difference to any team. The miles may well be on the clock but with a Rolls Royce Engine and the physique of a top class athlete there is no one who brings more to the game with his style of play than him. Imitation they say is the most sincere form of flattery and every team in Ireland has tried to copy the way Dooher plays or coach their players to play the position like he does. However there is only one original and we are fortunate that he is a Tyrone man. Although he may be thirty five years old I have a feeling that if his talents and skills are properly utilised next year we could see him lift The Sam Maguire trophy in September as Tyrone captain for the third time. That would be a unique achievement for a truly unique player.