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Club Tyrone chief happy to see Red Hands remain at top table

Tyrone's first win in Kerry for 19 years was a bonus after their safety had been assured due to results elsewhere Picture: Sportsfile

CLUB Tyrone’s relentless underpinning of the pursuit of excellence glistened in the brilliant sunshine at Killarney as top tier status was reaffirmed.

The county’s fundraising organisation has generated more than £6m over the past 25 years, and its influence sustained as the Red Hands came out on top in a battle of two of gaelic football’s giants.

Victory over Kerry turned out to be a bonus on an afternoon when results elsewhere confirmed Tyrone’s survival as a Division One force.

It was all about grit, determination and sweat on a blistering afternoon at Fitzgerald Stadium, but everything was built upon the solid foundations and structures established by a visionary cohort of gaels.

Club Tyrone chairman and founder member Mark Conway was among the hordes of loyal fans who travelled to the Kingdom for Sunday’s concluding Allianz League tie, and to him, a slide into the second tier would have been unthinkable for the All-Ireland champions.

“We need to be sitting at the top table, we need to be playing the best teams,” he said.

“It’s the place to be. For a lot of my life, Tyrone would have spent a lot of time in Divisions Two and Three, when it used to be regionalised away back in the day, and the furthest south you would have got would have been Athlone or Mulligar.”

A first win in Killarney in 19 years saw Tyrone avenge last year’s six-goal mauling and cross a psychological barrier that had stumped the county season after season.

“We had that one win here (2003), and I think the rest of them were all beatings. I think we might have had a draw in Tralee one time. But the beatings were bad beatings.

“Everybody remembers last year and the six goals that went in past us, but the time before that, we were beaten by double figures of points. So a win here is just super.”

Conway hailed the resilience of the players and the manner in which they dealt with Kerry’s determined effort to maintain their proud home record against their fierce rivals from the north.

“One thing that struck me about them was that from the moment they took the field, for all the wee hiccups that we had during the game, when we gave a couple a points away when short kick-outs were messed up, we kept coming back.

“And the goal was the classic example of that. After the penalty, we go straight down the field and score an absolute peach of a goal.

“And when the thing was in the melting pot in the last five or ten minutes, it was our men who were rising to it.”

The Club Tyrone chief believes Tyrone are returning to form at just the right time, with their Championship opener against Fermanagh less than three weeks ago.

“The timing seems to be perfect now. I think everybody realised that after last year, when we finished up in September winning the All-Ireland final, there was no way we were going to start off at the same level and that same pace in January or February this year.

“We were going to watch Tyrone club championship matches in the autumn and winter, and every day you were going there, you were seeing three or four or five fellows out on the field with All-Ireland medals, fellows that had been playing in the All-Ireland weeks before that.

“They went straight into club stuff, and then there’s a bit of celebrating that has to be done, then there was the American holiday.

“So what happened was almost inevitable, but they certainly seem to have got the act together, and they look to be in great shape.

“There’s a heart and a spirit and a fire about that bunch that’s just wonderful to see.”

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