Ben Cullen reveals ‘unbelievable feeling’ at bagging crucial Tyrone goal in win over Cork

Victory sealed home advantage for Red Hands in All-Ireland preliminary quarter-final

Ben Cullen
Tyrone's Ben Cullen wasn't down to start Saturday's game against Cork but at injury to Kieran McGeary before throw-in saw the Edendork man drafted in

No-one outside of Edendork had heard of Ben Cullen this time last year, but the youngster’s break-out season has been one of the heart-warming stories of the 2024 championship.

His first goal for his county turned a tense round robin tie in Tyrone’s favour at Tullamore, breaking Cork spirit and steering the Ulster side towards a four points victory and the county’s first back to back successes since 2021.

A assured display by the 20-year-old wing back was capped by a career highlight as he ran on to Ciaran Daly’s assist to slide the ball to the net in the 53rd minute.

“It was an unbelievable feeling, just to get the experience of it. Ciaran worked hard to get the ball in,” he said.

The sides had been level on ten occasions prior to Cullen’s strike, which gave his side the vital breathing space they needed to find a way to play the contest on their own terms.

“It was tight, there were hard hits everywhere, you didn’t know what was going to happen

“Cork were good and we just couldn’t get rid of them.”

A double bill featuring the Cork footballers and hurlers meant that Tyrone fans were vastly outnumbered at Glenisk O’Connor Park, setting another obstacle in their path.

“It was hard going in to that, because Cork had two games and a big crowd, so we had to quieten them down.”

Cullen never played underage football for his county, and his arrival on the scene from nowhere this season placed immense pressure on young shoulders as he was called into the senior squad on the strength of an impressive club campaign with Edendork last year.

But it was a challenge he embraced with the calm sure-footedness that have characterised his performances through league and championship.

“It didn’t really faze me about people not knowing me. I just had to show them who I was and just keep going.”

Cullen was listed among the substitutes for Saturday’s concluding All-Ireland SFC round robin game, but an injury sustained by Kieran McGeary in the pre-match warm-up saw him drafted into the starting fifteen as a late, late call-up.

“You always have to be ready. You don’t know what’s going to happen, there have been so many injuries this year,” he said.

“And when you’re called upon you have to be ready to play.”

Support for the team has been patchy this year, but the St Malachy’s clubman would love to see the Red Hand Army out in force this weekend for the sudden death clash with Roscommon.

He sees home advantage for the All-Ireland preliminary quarter-final as a massive advantage, and the backing of a vociferous following would be an added bonus.

“It makes all the difference, and hopefully the supporters will come out and get behind us.”

The blossoming of his senior career has, however, cost him an All-Ireland medal.

Cullen would have been part of the Tyrone U20 side which won a second title in three years had he not been required to throw all his energies into his role with the seniors.

“It was disappointing, but it was still good to see them do it and bring a few boys through to the senior team.”