By Niall Gartland
Sam’s back in Tyrone
IT seemed like Dublin’s stranglehold on the All-Ireland was never going to end, but it was Tyrone skipper Padraig Hampsey who climbed the steps of the Hogan Stand to hold aloft the Sam Maguire back in September.
It was a triumph for the new management team, spearheaded by Feargal Logan and that man Brian Dooher, whose legend only continues to grow within the O’Neill County. They went about things the roundabout way – a six-goal tanking in Killarney only served to galvanise the team, and their season threatened to unravel when Covid gripped the camp ahead of their All-Ireland semi-final against Kerry. You could nearly write a book on that particular fortnight, but they were granted a reprieve by the GAA and ended up defeating the Kingdom after extra-time.
That set up an All-Ireland final against Mayo, and they were full value for their 2-15 to 0-14 victory over James Moran’s side with Cathal McShane and Darren McCurry grabbing the killer goals. A vintage year for the O’Neill County in the first season of the post-Mickey Harte era.
Let’s not forget the Ulster title…
IT would be remiss of us not to mention Tyrone’s run to the Ulster title, especially as it laid the platform for their run to the big one. The Red Hands were comfortable victors over Cavan in the first-round (Darren McCurry was particularly sharp that day), and then they got the better of their fierce rivals Donegal in the semi-finals. While they had some luck that day, it was still a very impressive performance and a sign of things to come with substitutes like Tiarnan McCann and Conor McKenna having a big impact. They weren’t quite so polished in the Ulster final against Monaghan, but they still ground out a one-point victory even though a number of players were missing due to Covid.
Minor promise ends in heartache
WE could dwell on their agonising one-point defeat to Meath in the All-Ireland U-17 final back in August, but there’s still plenty of happy memories associated with Gerry Donnelly’s side this year. The Tyrone minors played some swashbuckling football en route to the final, none more so than against a shell-shocked Cork side in the All-Ireland semi-final (they were so good they drew comparisons with the legendary Tyrone minor team of the late-nineties). Players like Cormac Devlin, Eoin McElholm and Ruairi McHugh have boundless potential, and they had an excellent management team served by Gerry Donnelly, Ciaran Gourley, Gary Hetherington and a certain Conor Gormley. It’s just a pity they couldn’t bring the Tom Markham Cup back to Tyrone for a ninth team.
Dromore are back in business
EVERYONE knew Dromore had a talented young team – they won the Ulster U-21 championship a few years back, after all – but it’s only this year that they really made their mark at senior level – and how! Colly McCullagh’s team plotted a remarkable path to their fourth ever senior championship title. They came through a preliminary clash against Ardboe before a marathon encounter against Dungannon (veteran Eoin McCusker rolled back the years, scoring six points). A semi-final victory over neighbours Trillick was another highlight, and they were full value for their win over Coalisland in the final. It’ll be interesting to see where they go from here – local legend Colly McCullagh has stepped aside as manager – but they have the talent to win more titles.
Tyrone hurlers make the national stage
Tyrone’s season started in controversy due to the delay in appointing a new manager, but it was worth the wait as Sleacht Néill boss Michael McShane was announced as the successor to Mattie Lennon. He did a great job, leading the team to the Nickey Rackard final where they admittedly were a distinct second best to Mayo. Nonetheless, there were some great moments for the team, in particular championship victories over Armagh and Donegal. On the club stage, Eire Og retained their title with victory over their age-old rivals Eoghan Ruadh. A word also for Dungannon camogs Naomh Treasa, who just the other week won the All-Ireland Camogie title at Junior B level.