GAA Football

Cathal McShane: Preparation key to Tyrone U21's success against Cavan

Tyrone's Cathal McShane (centre) scoring the crucial goal in last year's All-Ireland U21 Football Championship Final against Tipperary. Picture by Philip Walsh
Francis Mooney

THE All-Ireland champions showed no signs of unease when Cavan flew out of the Breffni blocks.

It was just a case of remaining calm and waiting for the system to kick in, even though the home side was three points up and playing with conviction.

Tyrone stuck to the plan, and the scores started to arrive, four of them from midfielder Cathal McShane, whose performance was one of the shining lights as the holders made a successful first defence of their Ulster U21 football title.

"We had a slow start, but we didn't panic. They went three up, but we just settled down, got our scores, and we got ourselves back in the game, which was important," said McShane.

"It took us a while to get going. I don't know if it was a case of midweek football, Wednesday night, it's hard to get used to playing under floodlights."

Meticulous preparation was the key to the Red Hands' efficient implementation of a well-rehearsed strategy.

Experienced players such as McShane, Lee Brennan, Frank Burns and Mark Kavanagh, all holders of All-Ireland medals, made key contributions, but it was all about the work done on the training ground at Garvaghey over many weeks.

"We knew Cavan on their own ground was going to be a tough battle. Cavan , this last three or four years, have worked really hard and they have done really well at this level, so we weren't expecting anything easy.

"We knew it was going to be tough, and we prepared well for it, but in saying that, to get over the line, we were lucky as well.

"Cavan had 16 wides, and if they had converted half of them, it could have been a different story. So we're just lucky to get over the line, and there's a lot of things to improve on."

"The experience counted, but Cavan had two or three men in their panel this last two or three years, and they were the beaten side.

"I know it does help to get the experience, but it's all about preparing well, and that's what we did.

"We didn't take Cavan for granted, treated them with respect, and came up and put in a hard performance."

The majority of the Tyrone team was new to this level of competition, but Owen Roes clubman McShane is certain the newcomers will derive huge benefit from this difficult trip to Kingspan Breffni Park.

"That will give us confidence. We have lost a lot of men from last year, so it's a completely new team.

"We're not taking anything for granted, because there's a lot to work on, a lot to improve on."

Now it's Donegal in the semi-final, and McShane needs no reminding of the epic nature of last year's Ulster final, when these sides laid on a thriller at Celtic Park.

"It's another derby, and it will be a serious battle. Donegal are Donegal. At senior level, they have done really well, and at U21 as well.

"Last year they ran us tight down in Derry, and they probably should have won that game.

"It will be a tight battle, but we're just going to get back to the training ground now and prepare for it".

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