GAA Football

I hope winning an All-Ireland inspires children to aim high: Tyrone's Conor Meyler

Conor Meyler is a frontrunner for the GAA Player of the Year after a stunning year that culminated in two tremendous games against Kerry and Mayo

ALL-IRELAND winner and Player of the Year contender Conor Meyler hopes his sporting journey and achievements will encourage children to dream big – just as he drew inspiration from the great Tyrone teams of the past.

The St Enda’s, Omagh clubman has forced his way into Player of the Year contention after two stunning man-marking displays in the All-Ireland semi-finals and final against Kerry’s Paudie Clifford and Mayo’s Paddy Durcan.

Tyrone quartet Niall Morgan, Darren McCurry, Kieran McGeary, Padraig Hampsey and Mayo’s Lee Keegan are expected to be in the running for the prestigious gong after consistently brilliant displays in this year’s Championship.

A Sigerson Cup winner with St Mary’s University, Belfast (2017) and an U21 All-Ireland winner with his county (2015), Meyler has himself been a paragon of consistency from the start of Tyrone's remarkable run which began against Cavan on July 10 at Healy Park and ended at Croke Park with the Sam Maguire.

Asked what his overriding motivation was in trying to win the ultimate prize, Meyler explained: “I remember being at the All-Ireland finals in ’05 and ’08 with my Da [Seanie] in the Cusack Stand and I vividly remember where I was.

“I ran onto the pitch with him and [felt] this elation, I didn’t really know what was going on but I remember thinking this is powerful how this feels and seeing how happy it made my Da.

“And I thought that’s what I want to achieve some day, I want to get there. I have had so many setbacks on my football journey that it would have been easy to throw the towel in and you wonder sometimes are you ever going to get there.”

A few weeks before Tyrone’s last All-Ireland final appearance in 2018, Meyler suffered a broken tibia but somehow still took his place in Mickey Harte’s team against Dublin at Croke Park.

“I’m not arrogant but I can honestly say I do more work than anybody on the physical side; training-wise, just constantly training and trying to get a wee bit better but you wonder is it all worth it?

“But days like that, it is. That five seconds or 10 seconds after the whistle, I just dreamt of it for years, standing in the middle of Croke Park on a dry day looking around seeing the red and white and seeing my friends coming over and hugging you.

“That’s a dream that I can now cherish. For me, it’s kind of like I’ve given that opportunity to some young boys and girls to know how that feels and hopefully they have dreams of doing the same one day.

“To me, that’s powerful. It’s not about me – I know that’s a cliché. It’s a bigger thing. It’s my family, it’s my friends, it’s the whole county of Tyrone, that I’ve played a wee part in giving them something.”

Meyler took on some of the best playmakers in the modern game this season and came out a convincing winner on each occasion – but it was not only his man-marking duties out the field, the schoolteacher also affected big games from an attacking sense, breaking Kerry’s defensive lines on countless occasions and setting up Cathal McShane’s second-half goal with a sublime pass that seemed to break Mayo’s resistance.

He plans to “soak up” the post-match celebrations with his team-mates but will be back training before the end of the week.

Studying for a PhD in Sport leadership and Gender, Meyler said: “I’ve a dream of being a lecturer one day and inspiring people that way, so I’ll get there eventually.”

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