GAA Football

Minor disappointment proved to be making of Cathal McShane

Cathal McShane powers past Tipperary's Kevin Fahey during last year's All-Ireland U21 Football Championship final
Andy Watters

CATHAL McSHANE scored the goal that got Tyrone over the line in last year’s All-Ireland U21 final.

Beating Tipperary 1-11 to 13 points was a “big deal” for him and his county and it comes as a surprise when the Owen Roe O’Neill’s clubman - man of the match that day - admits it might never have happened.

He’s now a lynchpin in the side that goes head-to-head with Monaghan on Wednesday night and, though Tyrone are favourites, the Farney youngsters will recall their shock win in Ulster minor final three years ago.

McShane remembers it too: “I had a good view of it because I was sitting watching it,” he says sardonically.

Tyrone were eight points up but, as teenagers tend to do, they lost their way and found a way to lose. McShane, an unused sub on the day, could have thrown his boots in his bag and thrown the bag into a damp dark corner of the garden shed. But he resolved that Clones 2013 wasn’t going to be the end of him. It turned out to be the making of him.

“At minor level, I didn’t get the game-time I would have wanted,” he said.

“I trained hard and all the rest and did what all the other players did. You could easily have went away and said: ‘och, forget about it’. But I chose to work hard, get to the gym, get to the training field and I was going to prove people wrong.

“That’s what happened, I went away and worked hard and it worked out for me in a good way. The U21 final was a big deal. We were laughed at last year, we went in against teams a lot of the time as underdogs, basically against Roscommon, against Tipperary. We knew rightly with the squad of players we had…”

Of course, the side was packed with talent and a clutch of those players - Padraig Hampsey, Rory Brennan, Conor Meyler, Mark Bradley, Lee Brennan, Kieran McGeary and McShane himself have been promoted to the senior ranks since that win.

Watch the Irish News preview of Wednesday's Ulster U21 football final: 


McShane scored five points from midfield in the quarter-final win over Cavan and added another in a feisty semi-final victory over Donegal. He is one of several survivors from last year’s side. Lee Brennan (seven points in the wins over Cavan and Donegal), goalkeeper Sean Fox, skipper Frank Burns and Mark Kavanagh are among the others. Inevitably, there have been changes too.

“There's a good few gone from last year's squad, a good few leaders as well - lads like Michael Cassidy, Danny McNulty and boys like that,” McShane explained.

“They are all playing at good clubs, Division One clubs, so it’s a big loss. They are all over-age now so you have to move on and try your very best again. I have played with a lot of the players over the years with the development squads and whatnot. You see players coming and going so it has not been too difficult at all. To move onto the senior team was just a dream come true for me as well,” he says. “We have to build on last year, make this year even better than last year.”

He travels to training with neighbour and boyhood idol Brian Dooher “the odd time”. Dooher, Peter Cavanan and Feargal Logan are the U21 management team and McShane remembers watching Dooher hoist the Sam Maguire in triumph in 2008 and thinking “that’s what I want to do”.

“Brian is a great man, easy to get on with,” he said.

“He always wants the best out of you, no matter if I get a lift with him or not. I always have to do my best, just do what he and the other men want me to do. I feel a lot of men have stepped up to the plate this year.

“You are going to look at the boys who were on the team last year who are there this year. But lots and lots of good players have come in, lots of players who have played well at MacRory level, McLarnon Cup level, who have done well with their clubs in Division One and Division Two, who might have shown well with the minors last year and the year before.

“There is a bit more put on me because I was playing last year, but there are eight or nine other players from last year. They can put their shoulder to the wheel as well.”

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