GAA Football

Joe McMahon: Tyrone gearing up for learning-curve challenge

tyrones joe mc mahon pic seamus loughran.
Francis Mooney

Tyrone’s Allianz National Football League campaign will track a steep learning curve for both management and players, according to Joe McMahon.

The double All-Ireland winner, now a member of the new back-room team, is gearing up for a multi-faceted challenge.

The process of getting to know the squad will go hand in hand with developing the style of play that fits the vision of bosses Feargal Logan and Brian Dooher.

And all that amid the whirlwind of quick-fire Ulster derby fixtures against Donegal, Armagh and Monaghan.

“The initial thoughts will be towards the National League, and getting the way that we would like to focus on and how we want to play,” he said.

“With the opposition all Ulster teams, it’s going to be a huge challenge, but hopefully it will set us up well for the Ulster Championship.”

“Like any new management coming in, we have our thoughts and ideas, and what has gone before us, we’ll certainly be building on that.

“There’s enough good work that has been put in place before we even came on board, with Mickey and his back-room teams in the past.

“However we go out to play, I don’t think anything will change in terms of the effort, endeavour and the hard work that you come to expect of being a Tyrone player.”

The weeks ahead will be all the more crucial, given the removal of the pre-season Dr McKenna Cup competition, and with it the opportunity to trial players and ease into the higher tempo of League action.

“In the sense that the McKenna Cup was used to trial players, and get a look at lads, and conditions would have had their part to play in the time of year that it’s played.

“But this time around, the National League is taken more seriously.

“There’s more to lose in the sense that you want to be staying in Division One, and playing at that level, and preparing for the Championship.

“Any team going into the National League will certainly not be taking it lightly, there’s definitely a huge challenge there, and we can’t take our eye off that.”

McMahon, who retired from inter-county football in 2017, is now coaching a number of former team-mates, a situation that requires some adjustment by both parties.

“I suppose you could describe it as surreal, for a number of reasons.

“I’m standing there as a coach, having travelled the journey as a player.

“Now I’m working alongside Feargal and Brian and the rest of the backroom team, and the opportunity to work along with players that I have played with for Tyrone and then against in club football.

“There’s definitely plenty of quality there, but it’s a matter of focusing on what we want to achieve as a group, and there’s definitely be plenty of challenges ahead.”

Tyrone managers Brian Dooher (middle) and Fergal Logan with Peter Canavan (left) at Healy Park in Omagh. Picture by Seamus Loughran.

Following a spell as assistant to Ryan McMenamin in Fermanagh, the Omagh St Enda’s clubman has been pounding a familiar beat at Garvaghey since training resumed on April 19.

“For the lads, it has been a lonely time, being out doing their own training and doing the runs on their own, but there’s nothing like getting out to play that bit of football and sharing the pitch with others.”

Pre-Christmas trials were cut short by tightened Covid restrictions, leaving the management with a larger squad of players than they had planned, with numbers will north of 40.

“We do have a big squad to pick from currently, and it’s a matter of using the next few weeks to the best of our ability in preparation for the National League, and then beyond that we’ll be looking towards the first round of the Championship.

“That’s something that we’ll consider over this next while, but with that in mind, it’s just a matter now of working together as a group, maximising the time that we have.

“That will be the main challenge for us at this stage, and I don’t think we’ll be looking at the form of players at this stage, but that will come with that bit of practice on the pitch.''

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