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Tyrone star Ryan aims to shave off Kerry pride

By John Campbell

Ryan McMenamin is one of Mickey Harte's current platoon of bearded wonders.

The long-serving Tyrone defender was among the first to adhere to the no-shaving policy agreed among certain members of the team after their defeat by Down in the Ulster Championship.

Since then, the group have steadfastly refused to break their pledge not to shave until Tyrone's involvement in the All Ireland Championship is over.

"Mind you, we didn't think when we decided on not shaving that we would still be sticking to this in September but we're very happy to do so," chuckles Dromore clubman McMenamin.

Having played a central role in helping Tyrone to acquire their All Ireland crowns in 2003 and 2005, he will inject considerable experience, craft and energy into their bid to hi-jack Kerry's three in a row dream on Sunday.

And of these three qualities, it's McMenamin's high-powered energy that has been his most potent asset this term. In defying the theory that the legs are the first to go with each passing year, McMenamin is not only covering more ground at a greater pace but he is popping up in the most unusual positions.

When he drifted up alongside Sean Cavanagh in the semi-final defeat of Wexford, Tyrone fans did a double-take. After all, McMenamin is a player more accustomed to performing his defensive duties within the shadow of his own posts.

"I sort of found myself up in the full-forward line at one stage in that game but our manager Mickey Harte likes us to be versatile. That's my excuse anyway," laughs McMenamin.

But if he enjoys lighter moments, he is in no doubt as to just what will be Kerry's primary spur for seeking victory on Sunday.

"I have no doubt whatsoever that this Kerry team will want to be talked about in years to come in much the same way that the teams from the Kingdom who won a raft of All Ireland titles in the 70's and 80's are still revered today. This present team know that Sunday is a must-win game for them if they are to be given the same status as their predecessors and that means that it is going to be extremely tough for us," insists McMenamin.

And he contrasts Kerry's imposing record in the All Ireland series with that of Tyrone.

"When you look at Kerry with their thirty-odd titles and then you consider that Tyrone were playing for well over a hundred years before they won their first title you get a sense of just where we are.

“But Kilkenny hurling manager Brian Cody has stressed that it is all about winning an All Ireland title on the day and not letting other statistics cloud the issue. We'll settle for a reacquaintance with Sam on Sunday," adds McMenamin.

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