Conor Meyler: League will let Tyrone know where they stand
CONOR Meyler hasn’t had the chance to pit himself against the big guns at inter-county level just yet, but believes being back in the top flight will give Tyrone a better idea of potential All-Ireland rivals’ “agenda for the year”.
A niggling hamstring injury forced the 22-year-old to watch last summer’s Championship campaign from the sideline, during which the Red Hands landed a first Ulster title in six years.
However, Meyler did play a part as Tyrone emerged from the second tier unbeaten to secure their return to Division One, and is a player Mickey Harte clearly rates very highly.
The versatile Omagh ace is keen to repay that faith, and feels taking on the top teams in the country will help Tyrone’s preparation for Championship on both a physical and mental level.
He said: “I’ve never had the chance to play Cork or Kerry or Dublin, the teams you grew up watching.
“It’ll be a brilliant experience to be part of all that and knowing the level teams are at, where they want to be at the start of their Championship campaign, who’s playing well and how teams are setting up.
“You get an idea of teams’ agenda for the year through the League.”
And Saturday, February 11 is already ringed in the 2017 calendar as the Red Hands travel to Croke Park to take on the reigning All-Ireland kingpins.
During the summer, Tyrone were talked about as one of the few teams with the potential to derail the Sky Blues’ bid for back-to-back titles.
The Red Hands were just edged out at the quarter-final stage by a Mayo team who took the Dubs to a pushed them all the way.
And Meyler feels that, only when they go toe-to-toe with Jim Gavin’s men will Tyrone truly know where they stand in terms of their ultimate ambition to land a fourth All-Ireland title.
“Everyone wants to get a shot at Dublin to see what level you’re at, obviously they’re the top team in the country and you can’t argue with that,” he said.
“Everyone wants to test themselves against the best team and we wanted that chance [last summer]. From Mickey’s point of view, we never would’ve mentioned Dublin, it’s what other people would’ve been saying really. We never would have brought them up.
“Individually though, each player would have loved the chance because we do feel we’re of that level. We’re playing Dublin this year in the League and everybody will love that opportunity and be looking forward to it, to see what level you’re at.”
Ending the wait for an Anglo-Celt Cup was a key part of the journey for a team that contains so many - Meyler included - of the U21 team that brought All-Ireland success to the county in 2015.
And that culture of winning amongst the younger players, allied to the experience of men like the returning Sean Cavanagh, could be a major factor if Tyrone are to force themselves onto the scene when September comes.
“Winning becomes easier the more you do it, you develop that winning mentality. “You surround yourself with winners, people who have achieved. They aren’t content with what they have. Take Sean for example, the likes of Justy [McMahon] and other boys who have achieved so much and yet they’re still hungry for more.
“That’s just the kind of players Tyrone have brought through at all levels. They’re hungry and they want to win, whether they’re involved in managing youth teams or working with a college team, or playing at club level, these boys want to win every game and they’ll take it badly if they lose.
“If you surround yourself with players of that mentality, it can only bring you on.”