Ryan McMenamim: All I wanted was to win
Recently retired Ryan McMenamin has broken his silence on some of the most controversial incidents that he was involved in.
In a wide-ranging interview McMenamin reflected on the furore following the infamous incident with Paul Galvin during a league match in 2009, the hysteric reaction to the 2003 All-Ireland semi-final win over Kerry and the culture of gamesmanship in the GAA.
As an attacking corner-back, there were few the equal of the Dromore man in terms of skill, drive and energy. He admits that on occasion this exuberance spilled into naked aggression, but he says he can make his peace with that.
“I know a lot of people would have written about me, about the negative side of the game,” he said.
“I know that's what I've got in the media and that's probably what's out there, but I'm content with what I gave to football, if I did my very best for Tyrone, I'm happy enough.”
He continued: “No-one is going to go through their whole life perfect. My football career will be remembered more for the off-the-ball stuff.
“At the end of the day I don't really care. I played county football to win and that's all I did. I just loved winning. It drove me too far sometimes.”
Perhaps the most extreme example of his competitive nature came in the 2005 Ulster final replay defeat to Armagh, when he dropped his knees into John McEntee as he went to the ground.
On reflection, McMenamin feels genuine remorse for it as he commented: “It was one of those things you look back at and say to yourself, ‘what were you thinking.’ I rang John after that. He was happy with that, for it to be left on the field. He didn't want it to carry on.”
While there was a significant reaction to that incident, it was nothing in comparison to when he lowered his hand to the groin of Paul Galvin during that league tie in 2009.
Unfortunately for McMenamin it was televised and while it was a moment straight out of the slapstick school of comedy, the opprobrium rained down on his head for weeks after.
“That was the spur of the moment,” he recalled.
“I don't even know why I did it. It wasn't an actual punch. I was kind of half laughing when I did it. I was watching it back on TG4 and even the commentators were laughing. Och, I shouldn't have done it. I had good craic at the appeals committee with it. It was good craic listening to them on it.
“My wife (Maura), shakes her head now. I think maybe after the Galvin incident she says ‘enough's enough.’
“I chatted to Mickey Harte too and he says ‘if you do it again I can't back you.’ I said, ‘I know, I know.' He said I'd have to channel that aggression some other way. When I was retiring we agreed that he was going to have less disciplinary problems, less trips to Dublin.”
In recent years, some candid GAA books and articles have made reference to the level of verbal sparring that goes on in inter-county football. While McMenamin was held up as a practitioner, there have been examples since of teams that use it to their advantage.
McMenamin explained his attitude towards it, saying, “People may say it's unsporting or whatever, but I'd watch a lot of American sports and I think it's accepted. It's part of the psychology.
“There are a lot more players who are worse than me, but weren't getting the same spotlight as me, maybe because Tyrone are successful.”
The reaction to Tyrone's breakthrough 2003 All-Ireland semi-final win over Kerry also surprised him.
Referring to the infamous ‘puke football' line, he explains: “You have to look at where Tyrone were coming from. We were coming as a team to make our name. All we wanted to do was go and tear the whole pitch up. A lot of that was about Peter Canavan too.
“We were told we could never win without Peter. Everyone lifted their game once they realised they could beat Kerry without Peter (he went off injured) we threw away the inferiority complex.”