GAA Football

Tyrone didn't 'revert to type' insists Conor Meyler

Tyrone's Conor Meyler challenges Kerry's Stephen O'Brien during the All-Ireland SFC semi-final this summer. Picture by Philip Walsh
Paul Keane

Conor Meyler has hit out at the perception that Tyrone's failure to ditch their defensive game has cost them, insisting they didn't 'revert back to type' in this year's Championship.

Various commentators claimed that Mickey Harte's Red Hands experimented with a more attacking style earlier in the year before reverting to a trusted counter attacking style after losing to Donegal in Ulster.

Pundit Dessie Dolan commented in August that 'they've tried to be expansive and it hasn't worked. It failed miserably. And Mickey Harte was probably under pressure to do it from the players. He reverted to type with Colm Cavanagh dropping back as sweeper. Teams have copped onto it a certain amount'.

Former Tyrone star Brian McGuigan also noted that 'against Donegal we went man-to-man and we just haven't the players to do that. Mickey's going with the system (now) that suits the players that he has at his disposal, unfortunately for supporters watching the game it's not exciting'.

Tyrone ultimately lost to Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-finals though Cathal McShane did win an All-Star in attack, underlining their success at times with a more direct approach.

"We are not a million miles away," insisted fellow forward Meyler. "I don't think that we did revert back to type in the sense that if you look at our Championship scores, we scored highly all year and Cathal obviously was top scorer this year as well. You had a target there that was scoring freely and we were getting the ball into him quick and early.

"I think sometimes the public perception is that they tarnish us with this brush that says Tyrone are defensive and all it takes is just one or two people in the media to do that and people latch onto it as fact without backing it up with any real evidence from what's actually going on in a particular game.

"I think we came out and played a lot of open football this year and some of our best assets are on the break. So why would you not use that? I watched the All-Ireland final and watched a lot of games this year where teams played 15 players behind the ball and nobody says anything about it, because people see what they want to see and sometimes hear what they want to hear.

"I saw Dublin, Kerry and Mayo all do it where they drop all their players and people still talk about what a great open and expansive game it was."

The 25-year-old, who has graduated with a Masters in Education and works now in Belfast, acknowledged that Tyrone did fail to get their tactics right in the Ulster semi-final loss to Donegal.

"We realise how good a forward line we have and the need to get ball to them, we probably got caught by Donegal in the sense that it was our sole focus, we were trying to get the ball in too quick," said Meyler.

"It didn't work and we didn't have a plan B nearly so it's about being able to match up the two. You see the top teams being able to chop and change based on their opponents, I think we will have to do that a bit better next year and spend more time analysing the opponents and seeing what the best way is to go. The player on the pitch will ultimately have to take more responsibility to see what's happening and then act on it."

Former captain and talisman Sean Cavanagh suggested after the defeat to Kerry that Mickey Harte's time as manager may be up though he will manage them for an 18th consecutive year.

"Players wouldn't commit to another year if they didn't think Mickey was going to win another All-Ireland, so that really answers it for me," said Meyler.

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GAA Football