Football

Feargal Logan trying to ensure Tyrone keep competing at the top

Tyrone joint-manager Feargal Logan. Picture Margaret McLaughlin
Tyrone joint-manager Feargal Logan. Picture Margaret McLaughlin Tyrone joint-manager Feargal Logan. Picture Margaret McLaughlin

AMIDST all the talk about what it takes to win an All-Ireland Final, the reverse to be considered is what it means to lose one.

Much is made of Mayo's many final losses but most of the current Tyrone panel know that pain too from 2018 - as well as joint-manager Feargal Logan.

While his fellow boss Brian Dooher can display three Celtic Crosses, two won as Tyrone captain, Logan lost the only final he played, in controversial circumstances against Dublin in 1995.

When it's put to the normally talkative Stewartstown man that he has never got over that defeat, he replied: "We will talk about that again. There are a few things in my football career that I am not over. But you are not a million miles away."

Such a bitter memory could lead to a fear of failure, playing not to lose, but Logan insists he'll drive Tyrone on, get them to go hard to win Saturday's decider against Mayo:

"My thinking is, let's get the head down and see if we can win this, because I have been that soldier that came out the wrong end and it is not easy rectified."

An obvious step towards putting things right is getting to All-Ireland SFC Finals, something that Logan doesn't take for granted, even surveying the grandeur of Tyrone's training centre at Garvaghey:

"You wouldn't think of facilities like this when we used to go round and borrow pitches from clubs. In '86, they pioneered the way [Tyrone's first All-Ireland Final], then we came in. It's been building blocks the whole way. It hasn't just happened over the past few weeks.

"We wouldn't have thought that Tyrone could have found itself competing in All-Ireland Finals regularly. But, listen, we haven't been that regular - Mayo have been regular, when you do what they have done. We still have a wee bit to go but let's hope we can build another block."

Of course, Mayo haven't been able to take the final step of winning, losing five finals over the past decade, albeit some of them extremely unluckily.

The westerners' wait for the Sam Maguire Cup has now stretched to 70 years. Tyrone's last All-Ireland (so far) came in 2008, but Logan admits to concern even about that absence reaching 13 years:

"That was a challenge for Brian and myself and, whatever happens, we still have a bit to go, to make sure that the standards didn't drop and things didn't go.

"There are counties, some not that terribly far away, where things can drop and, all of a sudden, it gets harder, once you go down a division, or two.

"It takes the full endeavour of every club, and everybody associated with Tyrone GAA, to keep it where it is. It attracts a bit of adverse comment at times but we just want to be as good as we can be. We don't mean any ill to anybody else, we just try our best."

Tyrone were accused of cuteness or cynicism after getting their All-Ireland semi-final delayed by a fortnight due to a Covid-19 outbreak in their camp.

Some of those allegations came from counties who had breached Covid-related training bans earlier in the year, but Logan chose not to bite back at such critics:

"All of that is a debate for another day, maybe. I'm not going to look into anybody else's house, I'm just concerned about here, and, in truth, the generations of Tyrone people who have helped put this [Garvaghey] together, and helped put a team together that we hope does its business well on the field. That's my priority. Those are matters for other arenas and other days. My only concerns are around here."

Logan declared that his "biggest ambition is to represent the people who have gone before us and have done everything in Tyrone GAA, through all the difficult times. Because we have a big county and a big club structure we have a good feed of players.

"We're all very appreciative of all the contributions that are made, night after night, on pitches, not necessarily here. It's the club work and club workers; we're lucky to be at this end of it…

"We're blessed with the footballers in Tyrone. That's due to generations of endeavour, a deep-rooted tradition in Gaelic football and hurling and all things. You see the surroundings here - we have facilities that would be difficult to match."

He insisted that the management are merely figureheads embodying so much behind-the-scenes effort: "The fundamental is…it is a collective now…We are here and there are guys sitting at home analysing videos, the medics who are 24/7. It's a collective.

"Management is overstated. You are as good as your players but you are also as good as the collective…as a team and a panel, you rise together and you fall together.

"If Mickey Moynagh [long-serving kitman] comes up with the best substitution - and I mean that with the greatest of respect, the longest and best servant of Tyrone football – if Mickey comes up with the winning formula, I am as happy as anybody."

One aspect of management does make him unhappy, though - selecting the team and squad.

"It's the one thing that would put me off management. It was the same at U21, it's the same at the club.

"Whatever about the 15, the 26 [match-day panel] is the real stinger. Nowadays it's such a fluid situation with subs, and often there's a feeling that you finish stronger than you start…

"You never give the players a guarantee that they'll come in. But some players know that they're needed down the stretch."

That is likely to apply to at least two attackers, Cathal McShane and Darragh Canavan, who combined as subs for Tyrone's second goal against Kerry.

2019 Allstar McShane only returned to action this summer after sustaining a serious ankle injury in February 2020, and Logan is likely to hold him in reserve against Mayo:

"It is frustrating for him if he's coming in for snippets; anybody that plays football wants the full 70 minutes to get the best out of themselves.

"Cathal has had a sort of staggered return here. He's chomping at the bit, and we'll have to see what happens at training and assess everything on that front."

Cavanan seems sure to be an impact sub, with Logan appreciating the lift he can give to the team: "His injuries have been medium term, shorter term. Darragh has come back and with the U20s he had an issue with his wrist, then he had issues with the ankle with us.

"Darragh has had a bit of a difficult run, but as we saw [against Kerry], he's an effective footballer and he moves at a pace that excites everybody.

"He seems to catch the public's imagination, which some players do, and I just hope he keeps developing as a player."

The same applies to this Tyrone team, as they aim to cap a tricky season with All-Ireland glory, concludes Logan:

"We've had a short run at this, genuinely. We sat tight, then we came in two weeks before the League, then we had a truncated League. We went to Killarney and got emptied out, then started into the Championship very quickly.

"It is the case that the team is developing and we hope that it keeps on that trajectory and that the players are starting to express themselves a bit better. Long may that continue."