Tyrone setting sights but they're also now the target - Kieran McGeary
TYRONE may set their own targets next year but Kieran McGeary knows "the bull's eye will secretly be on our foreheads."
Everyone will be determined to defeat the All-Ireland Senior Football Champions, accepts the Red Hands' vice-captain: "We know that ourselves…
"No doubt whoever we meet next year, in the first round of the League or the Championship, are going to be absolutely gunning for us."
The Pomeroy man knows that because he's been there, done that. "Any time we ever played Dublin over the last number of years we always automatically upped our game by about 30 per cent.
"Where did that come out of? It came out of the fact we were playing the All-Ireland champions. You ran harder, you tackled harder, you pushed harder, and you concentrated harder. You were only doing that because you were playing the All-Ireland champions, the best in your game."
Despite their elevated status, following wins over Cavan, Donegal, Monaghan, Kerry, and Mayo, Tyrone are still only ranked as third or fourth favourites in the betting for the Sam Maguire Cup next season.
McGeary, who was voted the PwC GAA/GPA Player of the Month for August due to his performance in the All-Ireland semi-final against Kerry, takes no offence at that, pointing out that Tyrone upset the odds this year:
"If Kerry or Dublin had won it they probably would have been favourites for next year. The fact that we're not might be a good thing. Anybody that considered us to be underdogs this year got proved wrong.
"There are no guarantees next year or the year after or the year after that in the first round of the championship….
"In terms of being third or fourth favourites to possible do anything [next year] - was I surprised? Absolutely not…And for all the big teams that are out there, third or fourth? I would take that, so I would."
The fact that Tyrone can dine out on their achievements this season is partly due to some harsh words from management about the need to step up:
"One of our coaches used as great phrase at the start of the year, that we were eating chicken nuggets and sitting at the kids' table instead of having steak at the adults' dinner table. Not that a lot of boys liked to hear that, but it was true, in essence.
"We hadn't possibly won enough silverware for the teams that were lining out, the managements we had, and the set-ups that we had. We weren't probably doing enough."
Tyrone did more than enough to beat Mayo and collect the O'Neill County's fourth All-Ireland crown.
McGeary's sights are now on number five - and more, inspired by the greats who went before them.
The stars of the Noughties are always in the background, literally so in the case of McGeary's colleague at Holy Trinity College in Cookstown, Peter Canavan.
"Peter slipped in the door there, you didn't see him, he was away before you even noticed him," revealed McGeary during his online interview. "They are the men who set the scene, in '03, '05, '08.
"We want to become that next bunch of boys that in 10 are 15 years people are talking about us and what we'd done, in 2021 and further on. That would be nice to do - but it's probably got harder to do now because everybody wants a piece of you. Everybody will want us to get pushed to the sword and see how we can cope with it."
Although he laughs as he labels himself "a bit of a mouth on the pitch", McGeary isn't being cocky when he reckons Tyrone can improve significantly on their All-Ireland Final display, especially in attack.
Cathal McShane and Darragh Canavan both came off the bench to good effect and McGeary also pointed to other forward options: "You look at the bench and see the boys that only played fragments of this year – Paul Donaghy, Mark Bradley, Lee Brennan.
"When you've the likes of those boys that played very little game-time all year – and 'Sparky' [Bradley] hit a hat-trick there for his club, it goes to show what he can do whenever he's back. The forward scene is looking promising – but again you just need the right ingredients on the right day."