Joe McMahon says time for rebuilding is over – now Tyrone must set their sights on September

Defender is anxious to see side make use of momentum built up during qualifiers

Tyrone’s Joe McMahon: “We know what Meath offer, they put up a big challenge against the Dubs.” Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

The period of rebuilding in Tyrone is over. The glorious careers of Philly Jordan and Brian Dooher are now in the distant past.

A new Tyrone team was visible in Newbridge last Saturday night as they saw off the challenge of Kildare; the energetic performances of the Donnellys, Mark and Matthew, while Peter Harte eased into the contest when he was needed most.

Ryan McKenna is another, filling the void at wing back since Jordan's departure. McKenna made two significant contributions leading up to Matthew Donnelly's 10th-minute goal in the qualifier win. Other links in the chain for that score were Mark Donnelly and a gnarled inside man named Stephen O'Neill.

Darren McCurry is another using Tyrone’s qualifier pathway to enhance his value as the right-sided left-footed free-taker. Conor Clarke at full back also played a vital role, largely extinguishing Kildare’s lighthouse Tomás O’Connor.


It helped that Joe McMahon provided a battered shield in front of him. "The big retirements there, Philly and Dooher, to lose them boys, even the likes of Dublin or Donegal would need a rebuilding process," said McMahon.

"But I think there comes a time when you are finished rebuilding and you want to step on and do something. Reaching the league final, we wanted to do well and we did, but we are where we are because we set our targets.

“We want to continue on to September time, but whether we do that only time will eventually tell.”

They know well there will be no September football without the veterans. When Kildare dug deep after half-time it was McMahon, Conor Gormley, Seán Cavanagh and O’Neill who realised the urgency of their plight.

They knew the game was threatening to slip away from them. So did Mickey Harte. Aidan Cassidy’s arrival saw them wrestle back the middle third.

“You can learn from winning as well as losing but it is good to see the young lads coming in and taking their scores.”

But it was McMahon who found Mark Donnelly for the vital 58th-minute score. That point put Tyrone back in front.

A lead they held to the finish and a victory that brings them back to Croke Park this Saturday to face a Meath side that performed well against Dublin in the Leinster final.

“That’s where you want to be, that’s where you want to be playing your football at this time of year. Donegal was the target at the start of the year, but now we’re on the scenic route. We have built up a bit of momentum now.”

"These games will set the younger boys up, and show them what is expected of them to win games," said McMahon.

Tyrone's last meeting with Meath in the championship was a surprising yet comprehensive defeat in the 2007 All-Ireland quarter-final.

“We know what Meath offer, they put up a big challenge against the Dubs.

“Dublin got such a good start to the second half and Meath sat off them a bit but they will improve on that . . .

“They’ve new players come in as well, and they’re playing a different style of football, carrying the ball, not just launching the ball in as they have done in the past. It’s something we’ll have to work on.”

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent