GAA Football

Kevin Madden: 2018 All-Ireland win would be Mickey Harte and Tyrone's greatest ever victory

Tyrone boss Mickey Harte celebrates with his players after their All-Ireland Senior Football Championship semi-final victory over Monaghan on August 12 2018. Picture: Philip Walsh.

Caffeine Shampoo “Known to stimulate hair roots during washing”.

While showering after the gym last week, I saw a bottle of this stuff lying at my feet.

I had no idea such substance actually existed.

I’m not sure if this product was around 10 years ago when my personal battle against the old receding hairline began, but even without it, I feel I have fought the good fight manfully and continue to do so every single day.

It is important to say that I couldn’t travel this arduous journey without the support of my local hairdresser Clare, the owner of Salon Rouge in Randalstown.

I have a frank understanding with her that once the definitive bald spot emerges, we will accept defeat graciously, and the number 2 will come whizzing out faster than a Bumble Bee diving into the Honey Pot.

For the record, unlike some fine gentlemen whom shall remain nameless, I have no desire in attempting to pull off the Trump Comb Over. In a funny sort of way, I liken my particular journey to that of the Tyrone Senior Football team of yesteryear and today.

Now before the great, the good and bald men of 03/05/08 get offended, I speak not of hair, but the journey in preserving the roots since 2008 to allow success to come again.

An entire generation may have come and gone, and major success dried up, but for all of those 10 years Tyrone have remained super competitive on the big stage.

At no point did they slip back into the pack. For me, that has been such a critical component in Tyrone returning to the biggest day in the GAA calendar.

A consistency approach in terms of a brilliant manager, strong financial backing, and quality coaching have been key. As we look ahead to another final, I thought it might be interesting to compare the victories of ’03, ’05, ’08 and consider where another title in two weeks time would rank among that honours list.

2003 The Special One:

Winning the first one is always special and I suppose in a way nothing will ever top that.

How could anyone forget the look of raw emotion and unbridled joy on the face of Peter Canavan as he got ready to lift Sam.

Or the warm embrace between Mickey Harte and his beloved Michaela at the final whistle.

A father and daughter who had plotted this final destination for many many years and there it was, coming to fruition before their very eyes.

Special also for those players to have played on that team with the late great Cormac McAnallen.

Of course, the stakes that day were intensified by it being an All Ulster All-Ireland Final against their nearest and dearest who were the reigning champions, so the occasion could not have been any bigger.

2003 was also the purist of the three as they did it by remaining unbeaten asking not for the mercy of a the back door.

2005 The Dream Team:

I think 2005 was Tyrone at their peak and they were the most complete team of the three. You had Peter Canavan, Eoin Mulligan and Stephen O’Neill all starting and operating in the full forward line.

O’Neill was brilliant that year finishing with the Player of the Year award.

Who could forget Mugsy’s unbelievable goal against the Dubs.

What a dream to have a trio like that up top, a number 11 like Brian McGuigan pulling the strings and the irreplaceable Brian Dooher - a wing forward who was setting new standards that others would follow.

As it turned out that inside trio kicked an impressive 1-9 between them in the final v Kerry.

Tyrone were able to win the final in 2003 with their greatest ever player nowhere near fit but this time around they needed him to orchestrate like only he could.

His goal before half-time gave Tyrone some daylight but it also punched a massive hole in the Kerry psyche.

There had been a schomzzle minutes before where Bill Kirby busted Canavan and Tom O’Sullivan dragged him up and around the place like a rag doll only for Mulligan to intervene.

Minutes later came a brilliant goal, a brilliant response, a massive lift for Tyrone and the perfect repose to Kerry’s bully boy tactics from the teacher and pupil.

Again, in the second half when Tomas O’Se got the goal to bring it back to a one point game Canavan came up with an outrageous score to shift the momentum.

When you take out Dublin, Armagh and Kerry in your final three games you know you have done it the hard way.

2008: The Sum of the Parts

Beaten in their first round game v Down in the Ulster Championship, this Tyrone team looked to be going nowhere fast.

The conductor in the orchestra, Brian McGuigan, had been through a horrific time with injuries and wasn’t the same player.

Their greatest ever player, ace marksman and leader, Peter Canavan had retired.

Three time All-Star forward Stephen O’Neill had also retired, citing personal reasons – (only to come back for the final).

Eoin Mulligan, who had put on the beef, wasn’t cutting the mustard.

It was no surprise then, that in the scoring charts that year Tyrone had no-one who even made the top 10.

It was nearly inconceivable to think that they could somehow have a forward line good enough to win an All-Ireland.

A forward line that could manufacture enough scores to beat a really good Kerry team in the final.

But they did, and the fact that they produced 10 different scorers on the day, spoke volumes about a team who relied on no-one but the collective effort of 15 individuals.

2018: Impossible is nothing

The only remaining player from the 2008 team just happens to be the current side’s most important player.

He is also the last Tyrone player to have scored a point in an All-Ireland Senior Final.

Of course, I speak of Colm Cavanagh who got the very last score in that famous victory over Kerry in 2008.

But should Tyrone do the business in two weeks time where would this victory rank against the other three?

I can see similarities in the teams of 2008 and 2018.

Both were completely written off.

But there are two major differences between this year’s team and the one that came from the oblivion to snatch the title ten years ago.

The ‘08 team had a spine of McMenamin, Gormley, Jordan, Cavanagh, Dooher and so on who had been there and done that.

Tyrone already had the Indian sign over Kerry from victories in ‘03 and ‘05 so their belief system wasn’t in question.

They also weren’t coming up against what many are calling: “The best team the game has ever seen.”

So for those reasons I believe that this would be Mickey Harte and Tyrone’s greatest ever victory.

If they do manage to achieve the impossible you can ‘blame it on all on their roots.’

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