GAA Football

'Despite the doubters, I knew I was made for the big days' - Tyrone's Darren McCurry

Darren McCurry takes on Mayo's Padraig O Hora in Saturday's All-Ireland decider Picture: Seamus Loughran

SOME thought he was never a man for the big occasion – but he always was. And he proved it beyond doubt on the biggest days of them all.

Unfairly judged in some quarters for missing an equalising chance in the 2016 All-Ireland quarter-final defeat to Mayo, McCurry stepped away from the Tyrone panel in 2018 and missed their run to the All-Ireland decider against Dublin.

But cream always rises to the top.

The pride of Edendork grabbed a game-winning 1-4 in last Saturday’s All-Ireland final victory over Mayo, rounding off a quite brilliant year and top-scoring with 1-45.

“I knew when I left the team that they would win an All-Ireland,” said McCurry.

“But my head just wasn’t in it, I wasn’t myself, I wasn’t enjoying it and I knew I had to get away.

“At the end of the day, I’ve been here since I was 18 and it takes its toll on your body and mind. Getting away was the best thing I ever did.

“I was in Chicago and I came back on the Thursday before the All-Ireland final in 2018 and I was down supporting the lads and that was the first day I got the hunger back. I knew I wasn’t finished. I knew I had a lot more to give because I was playing for my club and I felt like I was flying.

“So coming into this final I’d a point to prove. A lot of people were doubting me, they maybe thought my ability wasn’t up to scratch on the big days but I knew I was going to do damage – and I had to do damage.”

From their opening Championship win over Cavan McCurry was outstanding. He suffered a blip in the first half against Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-final, but emerged in the second half to hit a couple of important scores.

“I’m just very happy that Feargal [Logan] and Brian [Dooher] gave me the chance and stuck with me because there were some tough days where I haven’t performed to my best.

“In the semi-final when I didn’t have my best game, for instance. I could’ve been taken off at half-time because I was getting it tight but they stuck with me and I thought I played a lot better in the second half.”

From his first possession in last Saturday’s final, it was clear McCurry had the measure of Mayo defender Padraig O’Hora.

“I work hard for the team,” said the Edendork man.

“The Mayo back line is pure attacking so I had to do a lot of tracking back but the most important thing was to get up the field as quickly as possible, and I think that hurt O’Hora a couple of times where he had to make a 50 or 60-yard run to get back but I think I had the legs on him getting back up the field.

“We did a lot of video work on them and that’s what they were good at but they weren’t quite so good at getting back.”

A tee-totaller McCurry, who suffered the heartbreak of losing his mother at the age of 13, says he plans to savour every moment of Tyrone’s fourth All-Ireland triumph before turning his attentions to his club.

“I always said if I got to this position I’d take it all in, and I’ve done that all week - talking to people, seeing all the flags and bunting up and seeing all the supporters. It has been unbelievable.

“Walking round behind the band, I was laughing, I was loving it, it was unbelievable. Just to see the Hill and taking it in because these days don’t come around too often.

“The occasion didn’t really get to me. I was confident coming into the game and I was ready. I love playing in big games and I usually perform, so there were no real nerves there. I just I had to come in and do a job for the team and thankfully we got over the line.

“I don’t drink so I’ll soak it all up – spend time with my family and the team. This team really is a band of brothers, everybody supports each other, we love being around one another.”

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