Croke or Carrick, venue made no difference to victorious Tyrone: McGleenan
POWERHOUSE midfielder Michael McGleenan hopes he will get to grace Croke Park in county colours one day – but insists the decision to take last weekend’s All-Ireland U20 final to Carrick-on-Shannon had no bearing on Tyrone’s preparation.
The towering Eglish man played a key role as the Red Hands saw off Kildare, putting aside any talk about the decision not to host the final at Croke Park as the celebrations got under way at Pairc Sean Mac Diarmada.
In the immediate aftermath, boss Paul Devlin claimed such talk hadn’t been a distraction – “it didn’t matter if it was played in my back garden or we had to go to Newbridge to play it” – and McGleenan echoed those sentiments.
“Look, everyone wants to play in Croke Park, it’s every young lad’s dream from no age,” he said.
“But at the end of the day it was an All-Ireland final, we didn’t care where it was or who it was against. That’s where you want to be, you set that goal at the start of the year - I’m sure Kildare did the same.
“Now that we’ve won it, it’s hard to describe. All the effort we’ve put in all year, it’s nothing less than what we deserve. The training the boys have put us through has been unbelievable, we’ve worked so hard for this and it’s great to reap the rewards.
“On Thursday night there was boys saying they were sad that this was our last session, but I was happy because you’re the last two teams in Ireland still going, there was nothing to be sad about.”
No sooner had the long whistle gone on Saturday that talk in the terraces already turned to who might be drafted into the Tyrone senior ranks in the coming weeks, should Feargal Logan and Brian Dooher choose to add some of those U20s to their panel.
McGleenan – whose father Mattie was part of the Tyrone team that reached the 1995 All-Ireland final - is one of those who looks to have a big future at senior level, but his focus was on savouring the moment after being crowned All-Ireland champions.
“Ah, I don’t know about that,” he said, “we’ll enjoy this first.
“Paul Devlin has put his heart and soul into Tyrone football, all he has ever said is that this is about putting boys in the shop window for senior football.
“If you pick up a few trophies along the way, that’s a bonus, but he said his job was getting as many men through to senior football as possible and he does it every year.”
Another who appears destined to follow in some famous footsteps on the inter-county stage is Ruairi Canavan, whose spectacular 1-7 haul helped Tyrone across the line on Saturday.
And McGleenan insists that, for all his natural ability, Canavan’s success is the result of countless hours spent honing his craft.
“When you’ve Ruairi up there… forget about the Canavan name, it’s just that wee man himself.
“The work he puts in is unbelievable, no-one understands how much he works. He might have the God-given talent but he works so hard to make himself as good as he can be.
“He’s shown it in an All-Ireland final, and all the rest of the year.”