Kieran McGeary revelling in successful spell
NINE days after Down last won the Ulster title, Kieran McGeary was born.
The subsequent All-Ireland win is all the Pomeroy man has ever known in terms of Down success, and has grown up surrounded on all sides by that of his own county.
He was able to savour it himself last year when he captained a first All-Ireland under-21 success since the 2001 crop that went on to create such history at senior level.
And two-and-a-half months later McGeary came off the bench at the end of the Ulster senior final to kick the clinching score in the win over Donegal, sealing an unforgettable season.
“There are a number of the minor and U21 lads who have all broke through to the senior squad just a year or a year and a half apart which is fantastic,” said the 22-year-old.
“You know them players inside out, how they play, you know their strengths so there is a good connection between the younger players and there is a great competitiveness as well.
“Playing for your County at minor and U21 level is great but when you get to the senior stage it’s a different level and it’s where you want to be. July 16th is a massive day especially for the younger players and hopefully we can do the business.”
Beyond the disappointment of the All-Ireland quarter-final defeat by Mayo, the year’s graph took another spike when the club campaign spilled over in 2017.
With his elder brother Hugh Pat, with whom he still lives at home, and their clubmate Frank Burns, the three Tyrone panellists travel up to Garvaghey together.
They helped Pomeroy to an Ulster intermediate title last autumn and fell agonisingly short of an All-Ireland final when they held a three-point lead heading into the final four minutes against St Colmcille’s, but were caught on the home straight by the Graham Reilly-inspired side.
“The three of us travel to training together so the craic is good in the car especially on the way home, although you are a wee bit sorer on the way home.”
It would have been easy for Kieran McGeary to have fallen down the Tyrone pecking order.
On top of those club commitments, he helped St Mary's to their thrilling Sigerson Cup success earlier in the year.
He didn’t rejoin the squad until the tail end of February, but was straight in for the League win over Monaghan in early March.
Other than missing the last 22 minutes in Kerry after getting a black card, he played every minute until a quiet opening half hour in Celtic Park saw Burns take his place before the interval.
In an area of the field where he has competition from the likes of Cathal McShane and Conor Meyler, there is no room for complacency.
“There is competitiveness wherever you go and boys want to lay and that is a good thing more than anything,” he said.
”That run that we had with the club this year was fantastic and it was great to come from that defeat by Mayo to win Tyrone and Ulster titles with Pomeroy.
“You train so hard and to have those days out and that enjoyment is a massive thing to keep you going and keep you motivated.”
In that sense, his outstanding display against Donegal couldn’t have been better timed.
“We all clicked as a team that day and not every time that you go out onto the field that is going to happen. You are going to have your misses and thankfully most of what we kicked that day went over the bar although perhaps not as many went into the net as we would have liked.
“We could have racked up an even bigger score but again we got a rub of the green and Donegal didn’t. We had our homework done.
“A lot of people built up an image of that league game in Ballybofey that night when they walked over the top of us. I’m not saying that they weren’t ready for us but we knew ourselves what we were capable of and I think that we showed that last day out.”
Having been chosen as captain of that under-21 team last year, he will most likely find his name in the mix when Sean Cavanagh steps down from inter-county duty at the end of the year.
And while others like Peter Harte and Mattie Donnelly will probably be ahead in the queue at this stage, McGeary is flattered to be mentioned as a potential future captain.
“You have thirty leaders within the squad and it doesn’t matter who walks up the steps. That would be every young lad’s dream but big Sean is doing a good enough job.”