Belief in each other made Tyrone a force says Joe McMahon
JOE McMahon says it was unshakeable self-confidence that made Tyrone a force in the noughties.
One of the most versatile players ever to play the game, the Omagh St Enda's clubman announced his retirement earlier this week after playing his part in the most successful ever Tyrone side and he praised the togetherness and spirit of his teammates.
“We didn't have that fear factor at all against any side,” he says.
“I wouldn't go as far to say it was arrogance, it was just more confidence than anything. We had an exceptional squad of players and we had that confidence when you came up against teams.
“Teams were almost beat in a way before they played Tyrone because they saw the jersey and the white heat.
“They were all exceptional players and you knew when you went into battle that these boys were going to show up. Any day that you were going to have an off day you knew that those boys would step-up for you and they almost gave you that belief and confidence that you were going to go on and win.
“That is probably why we achieved so much as we had that belief and it came from winning so much at underage level and into 2003.
“Winning medals and accolades is special, but to me what was more special was meeting friends and people along the way because that is lifetime friendships and you can always reminisce about things that happened on and off the field and that can never be taken away from you.
“The camaraderie that we had served us well on the pitch because you knew that those fellas were going to put their body on the line as well to go and win a game and basically win at all costs and that served us well through that time.”
Despite graduating from successful minor and U21 sides, McMahon admits to being a little star struck when Mickey Harte first introduced him into the senior panel in 2004. But he quickly adapted and went on to win two All-Ireland medals.
“I remember being at that final against Armagh in 2003 and sitting in the Cusack Stand and it was unbelievable to watch them winning it,” he says.
“For me to look at those heroes which they were, and still are to me, to walk into that room in Paudge Quinn's for my first meeting with the senior squad in 2004 and look around with absolute awe at the heroes that I have watched for years was a dream come true.”
With help from his brother Justin, he famously shackled ‘The Twin Towers' of Kieran Donaghy and Tommy Walsh in the 2008 All-Ireland final.
But Joe revealed that the week prior to that game he thought he was going to be dropped when called into a room by Mickey Harte and Tony Donnelly.
“We were training at Dunmoyle and of course I was dandering about and taking my time as usual to get out onto the pitch and I saw that Dooher was getting a bit agitated,” he said.
“Normally he is out and about and straight at it but that night he was walking about and going in and out of the changing rooms. I thought to myself “what is going on here?”
When I went out Dooher took me into another changing room and Mickey and Tony were standing there. By that stage Stevie (O'Neill) had been brought into the panel and I thought: ‘Right, as wing forward I'm going to be sacrificed here'.
“At that stage I feared the worst but then Mickey and Tony asked me how I would feel about going back to mark Tommy Walsh.
“It was almost relief followed by dread. It was like every time I was asked to go out and put on the jersey, I was happy to do it. Fortunately it worked out for us that day.”
An iconic moment from that final came early on when Joe won a tussle with Walsh and left the Kerry attacker in no doubt that he meant business.
“I was probably caught up in that moment against as I had just turned over a ball and I just wanted to let him know that we mean business today and there is nothing going to beat us today,” he said.
“That probably gets in the mind-set of the opposition players.”