Coney: Armagh and Derry can take inspiration from Tyrone's 2021 success

Having watched Tyrone lose in this year's Championship to Derry and Armagh, former Red Hand star Kyle Coney believes both counties will believe they can emulate Tyrone's unexpected All-Ireland success of 2021 Picture: Margaret McLaughlin.
Francis Mooney

UNEASEY and unpredictable in the role of favourite, Tyrone thrive on the primal instincts of the hunter, and perish as the hunted.

That’s Kyle Coney’s theory on the vexed question of his county’s poor record as reigning All-Ireland champions.

All four Sam Maguire Cup triumphs have been followed by a failed title defence, a puzzling trend that continues to confound.

Once again the Red Hands limped out of the series this year, unable to replicate the style and swagger that saw them triumph last summer.

“This year, everyone was thinking of us as the team to go after as All-Ireland champions,” said former Tyrone attacker Coney.

“The mindset from a player’s point of view, having been in and around the squad, changes.

“You go from that mentality of ‘everyone is against us, we’re going after the big guns’, and we sorta came out of nowhere last year.”

An Ulster Championship quarter-final defeat to Derry at O’Neills Healy Park was followed by elimination at the hands of Armagh in an Athletic Grounds Qualifier tie.

“Ahead of the Armagh game, every interview I heard was ‘the All-Ireland champions are coming to our back yard’, so that’s the mentality difference.

“Maybe there’s something there that Tyrone need to change their mindset in.

“We don’t seem to defend it awfully well, but it’s not a bad scenario whenever we’re the All-Ireland champions the previous year.”

As reigning All-Ireland champions, Tyrone have managed to successfully negotiate the minefield that is the Ulster Championship just once, winning the Anglo-Celt Cup in 2009.

In 2004, they suffered semi-final defeat to Donegal, and in 2006, a shock first round loss to Derry at Omagh rocked the boat. Again this year, it was the Oak Leafers who sent the Sam Maguire Cup holders crashing out of the provincial series.

“I’ve been to a good number of Ulster games this year, and there’s no doubting it, it’s the best provincial championship,” said Coney.

“We have packed houses nearly every week, at provincial grounds that are so tight the atmosphere is brilliant.”

The Ardboe clubman believes Derry and Armagh have drawn strength from Tyrone’s success in 2021, and now carry the hopes of Ulster in this weekend’s All-Ireland quarter-finals.

“We have Derry, Monaghan, Armagh, Tyrone and Donegal, and on any given day, any one of those teams can beat anybody.

“That’s the joys the Ulster Championship brings us, but if you look at Derry this year, they have obviously taken great belief from what Tyrone did last year, and said ‘we can do what they do’.

“Rory Gallagher had them last year within a point of Donegal, this year they took them, and they’re going to make themselves incredibly hard to beat for the rest of the campaign.”

Tyrone’s form was causing concern even before this season’s Championship, and a Division One relegation battle was followed by an unconvincing Ulster SFC preliminary round win over Fermanagh, before Derry stormed Healy Park.

“You were always thinking, is this going to be the week where Tyrone are going to spark into life. But it just never happened.

“With the number of wins we got in the League, it doesn’t bode well for the Championship.

“You need real momentum, you need good form, you need players that are in form, and we didn’t have any of that this year.

“It will be good for the players to go back to their clubs, get a good long club season, which they haven’t had in a few years, and that will be good for them.”

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