“It won’t distract me from my game, I don’t look into it at all, don’t want to be sitting at the kitchen table thinking ‘where was my head at’…?”
So said Kieran McGreary in the fortnight before Tyrone’s final showdown against Mayo, defying, it seemed, the old fear of distraction or indeed paralysis which says whoever is presented for an interview before a big match, make sure he’s not a big name player.
Turns out McGreary was at his majestic best in Saturday’s win over Mayo, central to one of the meanest defensive performances all season, particularly in denying Mayo the goal they so craved – at the same time, too, central to the repeated waves of counter-attacks which ultimately helped create the two goals that won the match for Tyrone.
Indeed in the end, and in near direct contrast to Mayo, all their big name players stood up and came up with the best come final day, including man of the match Darren McCurry. His 1-4, including two points from play, was a proper capstone, the “Dazzler” back to his very best after opting out of the panel three years ago.
“Years of hard work for this team, years of struggle, but finally we got there in the end. It’s such an unbelievable feeling for me personally and the boys,” he said.
“I knew the last day I didn’t do myself justice, things didn’t go well. I knew coming into the final here, I was in great shape and the team was, and I just tried to get every ball and do something with it. And I think I did that, I think I showed that out, back enjoying my football.”
McCurry’s Edendork club mate Niall Morgan also produced another masterclass in goalkeeping responsibilities come big match day, scoring two frees and one 45 while torturing Mayo’s nerve with his long kick outs in particular.
“I’ve been knocked every year since I started playing for Tyrone,” he said, “and you’ve got to have some serious belief in yourself. If you keep digging you can keep going. We just had the serious belief that we can do it. I’ve said since I first came in ‘if I didn’t think Tyrone were going to win an All-Ireland then I wouldn’t be here.’
“We stayed calm, in control. Mayo would come back, we knew. We knew if were going to win today we would need goals. Everybody always said ‘Tyrone can’t get goals’ and we got the goals that won us the game.”
Cathal McShane came off the bench to add to McCurry’s goal with his very first touch of the game, adding to his mercurial style of play: “Cathal is just a completely different person to everyone else, he offers you so much,” said Morgan.
There were big games and names all over the field Conor McKenna, becoming just the fourth footballer in GAA history to win an All-Ireland after also serving in the AFL, following in the footsteps of Dermot McNicholl (1993), Brian Stynes (1995) and Tadhg Kennelly (2009).
A big game final for Tyrone joint managers too: this time last year, Feargal Logan was managing his club Stewartstown in the county intermediate final loss to Greencastle; on Saturday evening he jointly managed Tyrone to an All-Ireland senior title in his first season – and only the fourth ever in the history of the county.
Some redemption for his All-Ireland loss as a player in 1995?
“Well, it probably does, in truth. There’s no getting away from the fact that 1995 was a very, very painful day for Tyrone, in particular for the lads that I ran with on the day, and still would run with. That was one that got away, and we partly redeemed it here, in my mind anyway, it’s somewhat a redemption.”