Understanding the authentic and "more relaxed" Conor Meyler
MAYBE we were viewing Conor Meyler from the wrong angle all this time. Or maybe his role evolved over the years. And the game too. Or maybe he decided to relax more.
In truth, it’s probably a combination of all three. What emerged in front of a nation’s gaze in 2021 was an awesome footballer whose pursuit of excellence inspired Tyrone to a fourth All-Ireland title.
So, did we get Conor Meyler wrong all this time?
“There are probably two sides to it,” said the St Enda’s, Omagh clubman.
“I have been doing man-marking out the field for years now and people probably didn’t notice. You know, you were doing those jobs for years and sometimes I felt I was playing very, very well.
“I never really got much recognition, so it’s funny how people started to notice a bit more this year.”
Meyler was undoubtedly a slow burner of a footballer. Unlike some of his All-Ireland U21 team-mates of 2015, he had to bide his time to break into the senio ranks.
He filled many different roles under former boss Mickey Harte – but he admits a couple of tweaks to his mental preparation has brought his game to a new level.
“I think the biggest thing for me this year was playing without fear,” he explained.
“It’s probably a personal thing. Sometimes I do so much preparation, physically and mentally, that I nearly do too much.
“This year I have learned to relax a bit and play with a wee bit more freedom and courage.
“It’s something I would have wrote on my wrist before games – ‘sweat’ and ‘courage’. That’s all you have.
“Just two words that meant something to me. I did a bit of work with a fella earlier in the year…"
The Tyrone management team have been ‘hammering the hammer’ of the opposition since they opened up their Ulster Championship account against Cavan on July 10.
And there was no better Red Hand hammer than Meyler.
“You can prepare so much – I’ve spent hours and hours watching video work of opposition and putting notes into the team and putting in different podcasts and posts for the mental side for the boys,” he said.
“But, for me, I sometimes have to step back and say: ‘Trust yourself here’... I think that’s been huge for me - not thinking as much. Finding the zone where you’re not thinking as much, you face a man up one-v-one, and all year I’ve been backing myself.
“I’ve been side-stepping men and going at ease because I have a wee bit more faith in myself and accepting whatever happens, happens. Even that authenticity of understanding yourself, accepting yourself, I am who I am and this is how I play. I’m detailed, I’m diligent, I’m intense sometimes, but I think a lot of high performers are.”
Meyler went toe to toe with the best player the opposition had to offer.
He shadowed Martin Reilly, Ryan McHugh, Ryan McAnespie, Paudie Clifford and Paddy Durcan – and also aided Tyrone’s break-out in devastating fashion which has pushed him right into Player of the Year contention.
"You’re up against some of the best players in the country and just backing myself and having more emphasis in me trying to get on the ball as well which is really difficult to do when you’re trying to limit a man – a man who is used to 30 or 40 possessions but knowing it’s going to go a long way to winning a game.
“I’ll try to take it all in a bit more. Even the build-up I was smiling a bit more. I was chatting to Petey Harte about it – I’d be really close to him – and I was just saying in the way in [to Croke Park] that it doesn’t get much better than this. There’s a poem The Man in the Glass and being able to look at yourself in the glass after and say, have I been myself and have I done myself proud as such? I can look in the mirror and say, 'you can be proud of yourself here' - and that’s a nice feeling.”