McGeary: Victory over Tipp in U21 final would boost rising hopes in Tyrone
FOR the first time in verifiable memory, only Fermanagh and Antrim are longer-priced for this year's Ulster SFC than Tyrone.
Partly, that's because they've been drawn in a season-killer of a preliminary round, a trip to Ballybofey to take on provincial champions and recent béte noire Donegal. Partly too, it's because Tyrone have been relegated from Division 1 of the League following a pretty undistinguished spring, one inevitably interpreted as a continuation of the internal slump that saw them exit last summer's All-Ireland SFC in Omagh, beaten by Ulster's rising force, Armagh.
"The way Tyrone football was going for the last while, it was on a bit of a downer," admits Tyrone under-21 captain, Kieran McGeary (left), hoping his team can sprinkle a bit of much-needed joy on the county in tomorrow's EirGrid All-Ireland U21FC Final at Parnell Park.
"But with us winning the (U21) Ulster final, it raised spirits and showed that there is still talent and desire to win within the county and I imagine if we manage to win on Saturday, it will raise that even more."
Because for so long, Tyrone's senior team was fuelled and oiled by successful and systematically-similar underage teams and just as it seemed the Red Hands might limp off into the sunset as a viable force for a little while, this U21 team arrives, threatening to win a first All-Ireland at the grade for 14 years.
The 2000/2001 two in-a-row team helped mould the talents of the likes of Stephen O'Neill, Owen Mulligan, Brian McGuigan, Conor Gormley, Philip Jordan, Kevin Hughes, Enda McGinley, Pascal McConnell and the late Cormac McAnallen - the last Tyrone man to captain the county to an All-Ireland under-21 title.
It was also a useful stage for Mickey Harte to hone his managerial abilities. Feargal Logan (right), who has guided this current bunch to the final, is assisted by a backroom team containing Tyrone heroes, Peter Canavan and Brian Dooher, "a massive inspiration," McGeary explains.
"That minor team that we were in, we got to Ulster final and beaten in All-Ireland quarter-final.
"The minors got to the final the following year, and those age groups have come together.
"Very professional group, feel that we are surrounded by winners and as Fergal said, if they are issues on the pitch, we do sort them out ourselves," added the Pomeroy clubman.
"We have a management team who have won All-Ireland titles so they can hand down all their experience to us and hopefully we can deliver.
"They've been there and done it.
"Their training sessions have been fantastic right throughout the year. The lads have all bought into it and thankfully we're in an All-Ireland final and hopefully we can deliver," concluded McGeary.