Tyrone not ready to be written off just yet, says Kieran McGeary

The whole country may be behind Mayo, but the Tyrone players are backing themselves

“It won’t distract me from my game, I don’t look into it at all, I don’t speak about it at all,” says Kieran McGeary, when gently reminded that, whether Tyrone win or lose on Saturday evening, he’s already a contender for footballer of the year.

It’s like an actor being told he’s a shoo-in for an Oscar: “You can get very easily carried away,” he adds, “and I don’t want to be sitting at the kitchen table thinking, ‘Where was my head at?’”

McGeary is speaking days before Saturday’s final showdown against Mayo, and what is certain is that he is one of the Tyrone players in absolute peak form. He was named man of the match in their ambush of a semi-final win over Kerry, immediately after which he said live on RTÉ Sport: “They said that we wouldn’t, they said that we couldn’t. I tell you what – we did.”

Asked about that particular remark, he says it was off the cuff and certainly not directed at anyone in particular. Tyrone are well used to being written off. All form is fickle and no one is more aware of that than McGeary.


“It was just immediately after the game, we were just filled with passion before the game, to see the amount of ones who probably thought we weren’t going to do what we did. So that was sort of where it came from, and it was nice for the Tyrone fans to hear something like that, because they were the ones that really pushed us over the line.

“But I don’t spend much time looking at the articles for the main reason that they could annoy you, waste some energy, thinking, who is that person saying that? People have to say what people have to say to write a story, that’s the long and short of it, so I don’t spend time reading into much of it at all.


“In the general sense, even in Tyrone people were saying, ‘ach, the boys are great, but they may not win this game.’ And that’s where it had come from, basically. There were a number of articles written during the week, but I wasn’t picking on anyone as a whole. We got tanked by Kerry in the league, they’d been doing the business up along, we’d been scraping through. So who did you really think was going to win?”

Mayo will present a different challenge again, in part because they will to a large extent have the rest of the country on their side too.

“Ah, of course, this is Tyrone you’re talking about,” he says. “Of course we have been written off too, several times, several games, we’ve been written off. And in several games people have been proven to be right in what they’ve said.

“Look, against things just fell in our favour, and we came out the right side of it. When you come out the right side you just feel like you got your own back, basically, you silently know yourself, without coming out to say it. But I’ve been on the wrong side of a lot of them as well.”

Tyrone co-managers Brian Dooher and Feargal Logan made McGeary captain of the under-21 team that won them an All-Ireland in 2015. Six years on, named at centre back but typically operating as a roaming centre forward, he still feeds off their positivity and influence.

“Look, from 2015 right through, just look at the two men, they’ve done it before wearing the Tyrone jersey, so when they can pass on the experience that have you take it all, grab it all, and try to put as much of that into your game as you can.


“We’ve reacted so far this fantastically to the two fellas who are in, they’re great Tyrone men, have done the business before, and before they even come in you hold respect to someone like that. Before they put on a manager’s jacket or hat, you hold that respect anyway, regardless. That was one step already.

“On the field, everyone has a job to do. Big or small. You’ll hear commentators talking about it. If you see a fire, put it out. Every player has that responsibility – see a fire, put it out. In terms of freedom, nobody is given the licence to do what they want when they want on the pitch. It might sometimes look like we’re doing what we wish, but everybody has a role and responsibility inside of the white lines.

“And collectively we have targets. Like, every team has targets. But individually I’m not a big person to look into individual targets. I’m more off the cuff, live in the moment, make the best decision for the team type thing. Work hard. I suppose that’s just driven from our coaching and our management.”

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics