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Tyrone's Big Joe hailed as one of the great all-rounders

By Declan Bogue

On a busy day for GAA coverage, with appeals and previews and all manner of things going down, Tyrone's Joe McMahon managed to sneak out the back door of inter county football without too much fuss.

For those who have got to know the man - and he is an exceptionally easy man to get to know - there was something apt in that.

In the way of these things, we are always drawn to the tributes paid to a player's career, and the highest praise came from his county captain Sean Cavanagh, who tweeted: "All the best in retirement to Big Joe, a great friend and team-mate the last 16 years. The best all-round player I have come across."

It's worth considering that last sentence and the 'all-round' connotations.

Players like McMahon are worth everything to managers and team-mates. In a playing sense, McMahon had an eerie relationship with the ball and control of his body that made it appear he was constantly spoiled with time.

It's called composure, something all the sporting greats, from Glenn Hoddle to Isaiah Thomas, have.

His versatility meant that in 2008 he could score 1-1 from wing-forward against Dublin in the All-Ireland quarter-final, yet revert to full-back for the final to thwart his old primary school classmate, Kerry's Kieran Donaghy, in the final.

McMahon - like John McEntee - ended his county days without an All-Star. In years to come, people will wonder how the hell that happened.

My own personal favourite memory of McMahon came in the Athletic Grounds tunnel, late January 2013 after Tyrone beat Monaghan in a McKenna Cup final.

The night was wet, but the gale howling down the tunnel was turning McMahon's sodden jersey to a sheet of ice. His teeth chattered as he answered all our dumb questions, but refused to cut proceedings short.

One reporter asked if that evening was the coldest he had ever played in, to which Joe replied: "Have you ever been up at Greencastle?" - a venue that looks down on the rest of Tyrone, before going into the dressing rooms and proceeding straight to the showers, still in his kit. One of the good guys.

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