Tyrone aiming to deny Dublin final place: Kieran McGeary

Kieran McGeary of Pomeroy and Tyrone with his PwC GAA/GPA Footballer of the Year award for 2021.
Kieran McGeary of Pomeroy and Tyrone with his PwC GAA/GPA Footballer of the Year award for 2021. Kieran McGeary of Pomeroy and Tyrone with his PwC GAA/GPA Footballer of the Year award for 2021.

Tyrone are intent on blocking Dublin’s route to the Division One league final with a stirring performance at Croke Park on Sunday.

The Red Hands have nothing to play for, but it’s important that they finish their league campaign with a flourish, according to Kieran McGeary.

Sunday’s clash with the All-Ireland champions is their last game before championship, and they’re determined to sign off on a positive note.

“We’ll be going to win it and that will be the story,” said McGeary.

“They are the kingpins at the moment. Look, we’re going down the road and we absolutely know the threat that they bring and we will do our utmost to try and get a result.

“Playing them in Croke Park is going to be a huge day out and a huge occasion. But the message will be clear, we’ll be going down looking for two points and that’s that the way it will be.”

But Dublin are the form team, a driven collective of players at the top of their game, having recovered strongly from an opening day defeat to Monaghan.

Dublin v Monaghan 13.jpg
Dublin v Monaghan 13.jpg Dublin v Monaghan 13.jpg

“Did anyone not see them coming back? That’s the way the league sits. Sometimes you can go out and have a bit of a stumble to start, or have a slow start. You can never really doubt that they were going to come back and flourish,” said the former Footballer of the Year.

Tyrone, on the other hand, have been a model of inconsistency, unable to put wins back-to-back, but doing enough to preserve their top flight status with a crucial victory over the Farney men last weekend.

“That’s the way the league has gone for us. One week we’ve got breathing space and then the next week there’s a foot on the throat. It’s not nice for that to happen any week.”

A debilitating injury toll has hampered the Red Hand cause throughout a challenging campaign, but key players are slowly making their way back.

McGeary made his first start of 2024 last Saturday following a couple of substitute appearances, and others could return at Croke Park on Sunday.

“I’m getting there. It takes time to recover, but I’m heading in the correct direction. I started and am grateful for it. I pulled up near the end. Any day that you pull on a Tyrone jersey whether starting or coming on for five seconds at the end of the game is a good day out. I’m delighted to get game time.”

Tyrone's Mattie Donnelly and Kerry's Sean O'Shea in action during the Allianz Football League Division one game between Tyrone and Kerry on 03-05-2023 at Healy Park Omagh. Pic Philip Walsh

Mattie Donnelly’s recovery from a serious knee injury is another huge positive, greeted joyfully by Tyrone fans as he made his return off the bench against Monaghan.

“Any team would take that man. He’s a warrior, the whole of Ireland knows it. To see him coming on off the bench to try and steady out the game. Sure there’s no better time for him to come in.”

Others remain sidelined, including 2021 All-Ireland winners Conor Meyler, Mickey O’Neill and Frank Burns, but McGeary hailed the contribution of the youngsters who have come in to fill the void.

“It’s absolutely fantastic to see the young players coming through. They’ve brought a great degree of energy about the set-up so they have.

“They’re coming in as experienced lads. People say that they are debutants, but they’ve done it at Minor and U20 level and they’ve got the backing to their name and they’ve all progressed really well.

“We want to them to be pushing for a position because that’s the way that I was starting out. You wanted your spot and the jersey and you fought hard for it. If you did that then you got it and these young boys have done that and continue to do it.

“That competition is extremely healthy for everyone. For me, for them, for the set-up and for the county. It’s good to see it.”