GAA Football

Kerry trouncing gave us 'a good toe up the backside' says Tyrone forward Kieran McGeary

Tyrone's Mattie Donnelly carries the fight to Donegal in Sunday's Ulster semi-final. Picture Margaret McLaughlin
Andy Watters

LAST month’s journey home from Killarney must have seemed never-ending after Tyrone had been beaten out the gates of Fitzgerald Stadium.

Six goals and 15 points for the Kingdom, a 16-point hammering for the ‘Nordies’ and soul-searching aplenty for Kieran McGeary and his team-mates who packed their gear and beat a hasty retreat back home to Tyrone after their final League game.

Not what you’d call ideal preparation for the Championship was it?

“It was embarrassing that day to wear the jersey and be part of such a trouncing,” admitted McGeary.

“But we tried things that didn’t work, that’s not to say they won’t work again. Kerry is an exceptional team and we were up against it that day but l think we are starting to show we are getting things in place and hopefully we do a job the next day.”

Tyrone have bounced back impressively from that “trouncing” from David Clifford, Paul Geaney, Sean O’Shea etc. Looking back, McGeary agreed that the experience of Killarney has actually had a positive impact on the team.

“It can make a team, it absolutely can,” he said.

“It shows the character that you have and the level you are sitting at and I suppose it gives you a good toe up the backside too at times.”

Tyrone dethroned reigning champions Cavan by eight points in their quarter-final and had five points to spare against Donegal at Brewster Park on Sunday. The Tir Chonaill men had knocked the Red Hands out of the Ulster Championship in the two previous seasons so it was no surprise when McGeary said he was “buzzing to say the least” to have got some payback.

“We wanted to be on the right side of that one,” he said.

“Too many times we haven’t been on the right side of it so it’s unbelievable to finally get there and get over the line.

“It was hard work! We were pushed right to the limits there, we stuck it out and that’s what hard work can do.

“There were a lot of factors in the game. It was nip and tuck: them missing the penalty, us getting black cards (Rory Brennan and McGeary himself spent time in the sin bin), Michael Murphy getting sent off… It was mad but you don’t really have time to think too much about those things, you just have to react straight away.”

The quality on the Tyrone bench was certainly a factor on Sunday. Substitutes Tiarnan McCann (0-3), Cathal McShane and Conor McKenna contributed five points between them. Meanwhile, the Donegal subs didn’t register a single score.

“When you see the likes of them boys coming on the pitch it gives you another lift,” said McGeary.

“They’re buzzing to get on and you saw the impact they had. Tiarnan McCann three points, Conor McKenna fielding kick-outs… That’s what you need from your bench. It’s what benches have been doing the last few years, it’s not a 15-man game anymore, so I’m delighted.

“The buzz now at training will be fantastic but it has to be buzz with focus and that’s what we’ll

bring.

“We’ve a fantastic coaching team, fantastic management we have boys who will do anything for you in the backroom team and they all play their part, they are exceptional, everyone will do their bit over the next two weeks, as will Monaghan.”

There is speculation that the Ulster final will be played at Croke Park to allow more spectators the chance to watch it. McGeary would be delighted if that was the case.

“Ask any player and he will tell you, they want to play in Croke Park,” he said.

“Be it wet and windy or dry and sunny, they always want to play in Croke Park. It’s where you want to be and if that’s where it’s at, that’s where it’s at but we’ll play it wherever.”

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GAA Football