Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 December 2014

McMahon’s at his best in the heat of battle

Can you recall Joe McMahon in his younger years? All relaxed attitude, big dead-on Joe who never got flustered and just went out to play.

It’s a long time ago. Now, he is the ultimate Championship warrior for Tyrone, the Spartan standing in the gap.

As he stood on the pitch after Sunday’s quarter-final victory over Armagh, with his face matted with sweat and thick blood crusting up around a nasty stud mark on his right shin, he showed all the signs of the hard work he got elbow-deep in.

Although the game is already being talked about as the one that has saved the Championship, McMahon himself said that the aesthetics are not a matter of concern for him.

“I suppose it’s hard to get caught up in the game with the intensity at times,” he said.

“You don’t have the comfort of sitting in your seat and watching the game. But I thought that at times the skill levels were high and you seen a couple of nice scores being taken.

“Maybe there hasn’t been good publicity so far about the Championship but in saying that, you are always going to get a good, intense affair between Tyrone and Armagh. That’s what you got.”

McMahon started the game in midfield and sliced over a beautiful free with the outside of the boot early on, before replacing his brother Justin at full-back for the second half.

One of the talking points of this contest was the aerial duels between McMahon and Armagh’s giant substitute, John Kingham.

The Tyrone man might have won those individual contests hands down, but he modestly diverted the praise.

“The ball was hanging up and giving me a chance to adjust and I had the comfort of knowing there were boys coming back that could pick up the breaks and big Packie in behind, there was safety in numbers there,” he added.

While he was busy sewing things up at the back, Tyrone’s keen survival instincts kicked in at the other end.

“With the extra man, we were able to work the ball short and break at pace around the half-back line and midfield,” said McMahon. “These are class players and they come to the fore when the pressure is on. Again, they showed their class, Stevie [O’Neill] and Petey [Harte] and the boys who worked the ball up to them as well.”

So that’s Armagh dealt with. Next on the agenda, Joe? “I suppose the immediate ambition was to get past Armagh and now we’ll look to the winners of Donegal or Derry. That’s going to be a tough game no matter who it’s going to be so we won’t look beyond that yet.”

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