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Management team's All-Ireland experience was vital to Tyrone win insists McGeary

Tyrone's Kieran McGeary with the Sam Maguire at the end of the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Between Tyrone and Mayo at Croke Park Dublin 09-11-2021. Pic Philip Walsh.
BY FRANCIS MOONEY

A TEAM driven to the brink of despair and disillusionment, almost broken, was rebuilt and reinvigorated by a group of brilliant alchemists.

Tyrone's new regime stood close to a precipice following a six-goal humiliation in the NFL Division One semi-final, but that Killarney meltdown was to be a defining moment, a turning point.

Five men with strong opinions and astute football minds dismantled the system and put it back together with reinforced steel and bullet-proof protection.

Kieran McGeary is a shoo-in for an Allstar, a strong contender for the Footballer of the Year award, but most importantly, an All-Ireland medalist, thanks to the integrity and sage of Brian Dooher, Feargal Logan, Collie Holmes, Joe McMahon and Peter Donnelly.

“We have had bad days at training, we have had bad days in challenge games, and we faced that all the time," McGeary said.

“But our coaches have been exceptional. They continued to break it down, push boys' strengths, push boys' weaknesses, and the job they have done is unbelievable."

All five members of the management team have experienced Sam Maguire Cup finals as players, with pocketfuls of All-Ireland medals to testify, hence the insight, the understanding of what was required to push a contender over the line after 13 years of false dawns.

Logan played at midfield on the team that lost the 1995 decider to Dublin, Dooher captained two winning sides in the Noughties, a glorious period that also saw McMahon, Holmes and Donnelly climb the steps of the Hogan as winners.

“What the forefathers set in '03, '05, '08 really set the standard, and we have big Joe McMahon, we have Collie Holmes, we have Pete Donnelly, we have Brian Dooher, we have Feargal Logan.

“We have the men who have done it, and when you watch those boys do it, you only have to speak to them for one, two minutes to know the path they're pushing you on.”

“We have been pushing. It's not to say that we have never been there.

“We have been pushing under Mickey Harte, we will continue now hopefully to push under Feargal and Brian.

“And to finally get over the line, it's brilliant, I'm almost speechless.”

Unity within the squad was galvanised by the management's ability to convince the players that they would get there if they trusted in the plan.

“It's extremely hard to stop a bus that's all going the one way,” said Tyrone's vice-captain.

“We knew every single player and backroom team member were all pushing on the same journey and looking to get to the same pinnacle. It's a hard one to stop.

“We're delighted, the backroom team is delighted, and everyone in the circle deserves every bit of credit.”

There's an unspoken but glaringly obvious bond between the players, a loyalty that lay at the heart of everything they achieved in this year's Championship.

McGeary was inspired by it, but somehow he's at a loss to put his finger on the magic ingredient.

“I don't even know if there's one thing that you could put your finger on.

“This team has been pushing for a number of years, there have been players who have dropped off and players come in, we have had a change in management.

“But look, we have always been looking to be at the top table, to be sitting at that top table.

“To finally get there is overwhelming, it really is, it's unbelievable, and I'm so happy, so happy for the boys.”

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