GAA Football

Former Tyrone captain Sean Teague believes Red Hand(s) can lift another All-Ireland

Tyrone captain Sean Teague lifts aloft the Anglo-Celt Cup, one-handed, after the 2001 Ulster Final in Clones.
Francis Mooney

FORMER Tyrone captain Sean Teague believes the county’s new wave of talent is approaching maturity at just the right time to have a serious crack at taking an All-Ireland title.

The Red Hands will discover this weekend who their quarter-final opponents will be, but Teague feels they’re a match for anyone.

He has been keeping a close eye on the progress of exciting young stars such as Padraig Hampsey, Niall Sludden, and Kieran McGeary this season as they grew in stature with every game on their way to Ulster Championship success.

“There’s a lot of new men coming in and making an impact, and young Hampsey is the prime example of that.

“He has really come on, with two man of the match performances. He’s a level-headed fellow, which is good to see, and blending well with the experienced players,” said Teague.

“The likes of Sludden has cemented his place. You’re not going to line out a Tyrone team without him. He’s an excellent footballer, great carrier of the ball, he can get in behind the tackle, and he’s a top player for Tyrone at the minute.

“Young McGeary has come in now and he’s holding his place, and it’s good to see it.”

A second successive provincial title has fast-tracked the Red Hands into another quarter-final, and they head back to Croke Park with an enhanced reputation and soaring confidence.

It was back in 2001 that Teague famously collected the Anglo-Celt Cup, one-handed, his right arm in a sling after picking up an injury during the Ulster Final win over Cavan.

There was to be no All-Ireland dream come true, though, and his injury-ravaged inter-county career ended soon afterwards, but many of his team-mates went on to achieve the ultimate honour in the game, bringing back the Sam Maguire Cup two years later, and again in 2005 and 2008.

Back in the golden era, Ulster titles came to be taken for granted, but they are once again valued by players and supporters.

“That’s two Ulster titles in a row and you can still see what it means to the players and especially the supporters, if you witnessed the crowd on the field after the game,” said the Greencastle man.

“An Ulster title means a lot to those players, a lot of them don’t have too many, and for some of them it might have been only their first.

“That gives them confidence, they’ll step on from that, and hopefully when they get back, they’ll take it on from there.”

One concern over Tyrone’s potential surrounds their facile run through Ulster, and those who showered praise on Mickey Harte’s men without questioning the quality of the opposition have been forced to apply some perspective to their thinking, particularly in light of Donegal’s subsequent mauling at the hands of Galway.

“It’s hard to measure where they’re at. They beat the three D’s and beat them all fairly comfortably.

“Donegal were hammered by Galway, and a poor outfit they were in the first half. It’s hard to judge Tyrone.

“But Tyrone has to get a fair amount of credit for that. They have played high tempo when it mattered, when it was needed, especially the second half against Down.”

As the Red Hands prepare to return to Croke Park, scene of last year’s agonising one point quarter-final defeat to Mayo, Teague is hoping they will have learned from costly mistakes on that occasion.

Missed opportunities and wrong options in the closing stages allowed the Connacht men off the hook, and they went on to qualify for the All-Ireland final.

But their former skipper is not convinced that the decision-making of the Tyrone players reached the level it needs to be at.

“We’re still making some poor decisions on the last ball. Even in the Down game, in my opinion, there were men in a better position for that last pass, and maybe we could have scored another goal or two.

“But we still kept the scoreboard ticking over, which is a big thing too. I suppose that comes down to experience on the field – keep the scoreboard ticking over and the other team still has doubts".

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