For Tyrone's Cathal McCarron, working for Gaelic Life newspaper in the run-up to a championship game has its perks. They are an understanding bunch when it comes to training and are genuinely interested in how he does, but on the other hand it can be tricky too.
"I haven't done an interview for Gaelic Life since I started working for them," says McCarron. "They never ask me anything about the team because if anything was leaked to the paper and I was always in it then people would automatically assume it came for me. They don't ask me and I don't say anything, there is a mutual respect there."
McCarron is a sales executive for the newspaper. Over the past few weeks he's been getting on with his job and that means calling up Donegal people. For him that doesn't pose any problems, a bit of banter is always had and it's a welcome distraction from the challenge that lies ahead.
He joined Mickey Harte's panel in 2008, completed the hard winter training and made the team for the McKenna Cup. He retained his place for the league and made his debut on against Kerry in Tralee. However, things didn't go to plan and he dislocated his shoulder. McCarron started rehab immediately but less than a month later he tore ligaments in his other shoulder and that was the end of his playing season with Tyrone. He remained on the panel and that September picked up a Celtic cross with the rest of his team-mates.
His second year on the panel didn't fare out too well either. The then 20-year-old had been playing well in the league and was preparing for championship. At the same time he was still playing for his club Dromore; his side played a game against Moy and McCarron got sent off. After the card was issued he put his hand on the referee's shoulder to try and explain himself. By doing that he tripled his suspension, he was charged with minor interference with the referee -- the same offence Paul Galvin was found guilty of in 2008 -- and had to serve out a three-month ban again ending his inter-county aspirations.
"Tyrone championship is a real tough championship and there are always four or five teams who could win any year. Clubs work hard for it and the standard is very high, it's taken very seriously. I'm not even sure why it's so competitive, we have a great youth structure in the county, great talent, great club players and we all want to win."
Last year was a good year for McCarron. Before Tyrone were sent crashing out of the championship by Dublin in the All-Ireland quarter-finals, he had started to make an impact on the team and was a regular starter at corner-back. He followed it up with a good season so far this year, starting against Monaghan in the Ulster quarter-final. However, the return of Joe McMahon means he has to be content with a place on the bench for today.
"Along with Kerry and Cork, I think Tyrone is definitely the hardest team to get into," admits McCarron. "The talent in the squad is unbelievable I think all the subs on our team would be close to getting into any team in the county. Sometimes getting the nod just comes down to luck or getting the right breaks. Everybody respects each other and we all feel that if you are wearing a Tyrone jersey you should count yourself lucky."
Tyrone's preparation so far this year has been solid. They gathered momentum towards the end of the league, secured their place in Division 2 for 2012 and started the Ulster championship well with a two-point win over Monaghan. But with everything that's happened in Tyrone this year McCarron feels that it is more important than ever to win.
"Every player in the squad is looking forward to the Donegal game now and although Donegal probably think they have more reasons to win it than us, I think we actually have far more reason to win it than them. To be honest, since Michaela died I think Mickey (Harte) is more driven than ever. I don't know what he is made off, steel maybe."
Although McCarron is only 23, he has had his fair share of ups and downs in his career. Yet despite the setbacks he has never given up and no matter what happens he is determined to keep taking his chances with Tyrone.
Sunday Indo Sport