Fresh faces will come of age for Tyrone
One of the inaccurate claims being made about the Tyrone side that blitzed their way through the National League until the juggernaut was derailed by Kildare, is that they are propped up by a bunch of young kids who are only setting out on their great inter-county adventure.
While Mickey Harte used this year to try out a total of 34 players, it was instructive that he let his defence bed down.
Aidan McCrory, a debutante in last years’ McKenna Cup who saw precious gametime after, was an ever-present throughout this league, starting all eight games in the full-back line. In the same sector, PJ Quinn started six games.
In the next line of defence, Cathal McCarron and Peter Harte started every game, contributing 6-11 between them. Damian McCaul filled out the line with regularity, starting five games and coming on as sub once, scoring 1-2 over the campaign.
McCarron is weary of being another name that is attached to the tag of ‘newcomers.’
When the final whistle blew in the 2008 All-Ireland final, he was the first sub to burst onto the field. In the years after, he has been sent out to mark the likes of Bernard Brogan on hot Championship days with the Hill behind him in full voice.
As he left the dressing room and made his way to the team bus with his kitbag draped over his shoulder, McCarron looked every inch a player that has been here before on good days and bad, and he bristled when it was suggested he and others have injected freshness into the line-up.
“There’s a few new boys there,” he said, “but at the same time they’re not new. Boys like myself have been around the panel four or five years, so I wouldn’t say we are ‘new’.
“I suppose, establishing yourself and playing regularly is what you want to be doing. That’s what every man wants to be doing.”
This was Tyrone’s unlucky 13th game of the year, bringing an end to their hot streak.
Being freed of that immaculate record though, wasn’t that much of a pain to the Dromore man.
“Look, these winning streaks are great, but it’s always hanging over you, pressure, pressure, unbeaten, unbeaten,” he added.
“I suppose that’s out of the road now and we can concentrate on the next game. It’s hateful losing a winning streak surely, but here, hopefully there’s bigger days ahead.”
With referee David Coldrick being one of the games’ least whistle-happy officials, the much-heralded Red Hands half-back line were continually pulled back when launching attacks, causing a lot of frustration according to McCarron.
“I feel as if our whole half-back line was targeted all day, and fouled — I suppose you could say unfairly — in the laws of the game. I don’t know, maybe the referee has to look at his own game too. I’ll say no more at that,” he added.
Changing tack, he declared himself happy with the league journey, though obviously feeling the tang of anti-climax.
“At the end of day, we are up to Division One, and it’s what we wanted, we made no qualms about it,” he reflected. “We are up there, and it’s disappointing that we didn’t win silverware at the end of the day, but we are playing Division One football next year and we’ve got what we wanted so far. It’s onwards and upwards, hopefully.”
Clutching a banana and an energy drink, midfielder Aidan Cassidy looked shattered from his exertions in an unforgiving tussle.
Michael Foley and Padraig O’Neill performed wonders in the Kildare midfield throughout, and when Cassidy thought Colm Cavanagh and himself were beginning to break even, Daryl Flynn came on to add another dose of dynamism.
“It was hectic now, me and Colm couldn’t get used to it in the first half, and they got a lot of breaks,” he said. “We upped that though in the second half, probably got the better of them in the second half. We played better football, and were two points ahead of them, we just couldn’t push on and get three or four points in front that would have made the difference in the end.”
With the league digested and dealt with, there is a very faint whiff of far-off Championship on days like the league finals.
McCarron already was turning his sights to Armagh in the Morgan Athletic Grounds, on June 10th, saying, “I suppose now we have a week off to think about it and have to go back to the drawing board.
“Our aim is to look forward to Armagh and the Ulster Championship.
“It’s on any given day anyone can win that game.”