GAA Football

Tyrone will bounce back bigger and better from Dublin defeat says Kieran McGeary

Tyrone's Kieran McGeary closes down Dublin's Con O'Callaghan during Sunday's All-Ireland final. Picture by Philip Walsh
Neil Loughran

TYRONE will come back bigger and stronger next year after “a massive spark” was lit during Sunday’s All-Ireland final defeat to Dublin, according to Kieran McGeary.

The Red Hands recovered from an early Ulster Championship exit to Monaghan back in May, negotiating some choppy waters through the back door to make it all the way to the decider.

Four in-a-row chasing Dublin went into the game as overwhelming favourites, having despatched the Red Hands by 12 points at the semi-final stage a year earlier.

However, there was to be no rolling over on Sunday as Tyrone came flying out of the blocks before the Dubs assumed control, always keeping their noses in front to seal a six-point victory.

But McGeary says Mickey Harte’s men are only at the beginning of a journey that he hopes can lead them to the Sam Maguire one day.

“They can’t stay unbeaten forever. They have set the bar but teams will catch them - they will catch them,” said the Pomeroy ace.

“Dublin have had their dark days, go back to the 2000s when Tyrone were on top of them, and they were always a semi-final, quarter-final team.

“The spark is lit, there was a massive spark lit with us today. We always talk about learnings and there is no better place to learn than losing in an All-Ireland final.

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“There was only player who played in the 2008 final, Collie Cavanagh. Even our other experienced players, Petey Harte and Mattie Donnelly, they haven’t played in a final. It was new to them and they are the leaders of our team. It was their first time as well.

“It was a rollercoaster for everyone. The build-up was fantastic, the support was phenomenal, as they have been all year - the county was rocking for three weeks steady, anyone you met was sending you best wishes.

“The build-up was fantastic, you will always remember that side. It’s just a pity we don’t have the big tin guy with us.”

Yet even though the Dubs were comfortable in the end, it could have been different had Tyrone capitalised on their early patch when Jim Gavin’s all-conquering Sky Blues looked rattled.

The Red Hands swept into a four point lead, and were finding plenty of space to punish the reigning All-Ireland kingpins. However, some bad wides and poor pass selection meant they failed to ram home their advantage.

And when Dublin were awarded a penalty for a foul on Paul Mannion, which he unerringly converted, the game turned on its head. They never looked back, punishing Tyrone in devastating fashion in the 15 minutes before half-time.

“Look, the Dubs are well-known for it - you take your eye off the ball for a second and they punish you. That’s what ruthless teams do,” continued the 23-year-old.

“We got off to a flyer, got off to a better start than we expected. We thought it was going to be the two teams figuring each other out in the first 15 minutes, but we got off to a flying start.

“But then there was a controversial decision [the penalty], haven’t seen it myself so not sure what happened. And that got them back level, the penalty and from that there, they just pushed out to a lead.

“All-Ireland finals are all about being efficient, efficient in your passing, efficient in your movement, efficient in your shooting. If you are not efficient, it will come back to bite you.

“We all know about Dublin, how efficient they are, they have shown that in the past four years.”

It looked at times as though Dublin might start to pull away but, to their credit, Tyrone stayed hot on their heels, and got some success going direct in the latter stages when Colm Cavanagh was stationed on the edge of the square.

A Peter Harte penalty, awarded for a foul on Cavanagh, gave the Red Hands a glimmer of hope but it proved too little, too late.

“The game was never over - we knew the game was never over.

“We spoke through scenarios during the week, if we went two down, four down, six down. How we would react to that, how we would fight back. We saw what happened in Healy Park when we came back at them in the last 10.

“We thought that if we got a goal, there was the potential for another comeback. But they just kept their heads and showed no fear and just kicked on. What do you do?

“Look, it is disappointing, but credit where credit is due, they are a great team. But we will go away and address it and see what will happen in the future.”

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