Tír Eoghain: The Unbreakable Bond a harrowing but uplifting tale

Tír Eoghain: The Unbreakable Bond a harrowing but uplifting tale

By Peter McNamara

Late on Sunday night, upon returning home from the Gaelic Grounds, TG4’s documentary on Tyrone, Tír Eoghain: The Unbreakable Bond, was sitting nicely in the list of recordings.

Absorbing the wonderful piece of work by the show’s makers, the disappointment of Cork’s shock loss in the All-Ireland U21 HC final subsided quite quickly. Stories like it of that particular Tyrone group in question will soon put manners on what you see as important in life.

Recounting the untimely death of then fellow minor Paul McGirr, Mark Harte could just about hold back the tears. Mickey Harte explained his disbelief at hearing the news of McGirr’s passing. Others recalled his funeral and how it knitted them ever closer together thereafter. Perspective.

The documentary illustrated, in no uncertain terms, how Tyrone have dealt with tragedy after tragedy. Harrowing, but heartening tales. Football, to those young men, was secondary. And even now, despite all that they have won in their careers, maybe they would still say it was secondary in their later years as players, and definitely now in their retirements from the code.

What was most remarkable about that Tyrone side is how they kept breaking through barriers despite carrying such losses with them throughout their careers.

They were brilliant ambassadors for their people and the dignified approach they consistently displayed meant they became equally brilliant ambassadors for the Association on the whole.

They seemed to be all the time trailblazing but never once came across as fazed by their evolution and where their journey was taking them from minor to U21 to senior.

Mark Harte. Pic: Sportsfile
Mark Harte. Pic: Sportsfile

After their stint at minor level, they were mature beyond their years. Yet, as Mark Harte had said, they had no choice but to grow up too quickly following the passing of McGirr.

Of course, and as the title of the documentary suggests, those saddening occurrences also instilled a steely resolve into their collective mindset. And they utilised that tool effectively.

Then, on Monday morning, quotes from Mickey Harte came to light in advance of next Sunday’s All-Ireland SFC final and it is difficult to not view them through the prism of a dejected Cork U21 squad.

Harte mused: “Maybe I am an eternal optimist. I always believed that these things were possible. Certain results hit you sorely and you think, 'are we ever going to get back to the top table?'

“You do ask yourselves those questions but I have a serious belief in the quality of the players that exist in our county and in the systems that prevail and the support that we have at every level.

“There is something about being patient and trusting in what you are about and adjusting what needs to be adjusted to try and come up with something better and different.

“It is an ongoing process and you learn a lot from setbacks and hurt. Maybe it is good to feel the hurt of defeat and by slipping a bit it drives you on to try and maybe think outside the box.”

Despite Cork’s setback at U21 level, the ‘I have a serious belief in the quality of the players that exist in our county and in the systems that prevail and the support that we have at every level’ is still relevant for the group that will go on now to backbone an already experienced bunch of seniors.

There is so much to like about the medium-term future of Cork hurling that it would be pointless now throwing the baby out with the bathwater just because of that final defeat in the Gaelic Grounds.

Tyrone's Brian McGuigan is tackled by Kevin Hughes of Laois during the All-Ireland Minor Football final at Croke Park in 1998. Pic: Sportsfile
Tyrone's Brian McGuigan is tackled by Kevin Hughes of Laois during the All-Ireland Minor Football final at Croke Park in 1998. Pic: Sportsfile

In the league next year, Meyler will have the opportunity to deploy more of the players on the fringes of the senior team that were part of Ring’s squad in Limerick.

And not every day in the league will be a bed of roses for the revised panel, but by the time the championship comes around they will be prepared to challenge for the All-Ireland title.

Tyrone's Kevin Hughes (right) during the All-Ireland Minor Football final at Croke Park in 1998. Pic: Sportsfile
Tyrone's Kevin Hughes (right) during the All-Ireland Minor Football final at Croke Park in 1998. Pic: Sportsfile

News on Monday night of Stephen Rochford’s decision to step down as Mayo manager came as a surprise given not 24 hours earlier it seemed his backroom team for the foreseeable future had become public knowledge.

“After a meeting of the Mayo GAA Board’s Executive Committee last night, held to discuss the management team I had assembled to manage Mayo senior men’s team in 2019, the board issued a statement saying they wished to meet the management team and me about our structure and plans.

“It was apparent from what transpired at that meeting that the desired level of support for me as manager was not forthcoming from the Executive Committee. This disappoints me greatly,” Rochford explained in a statement.

As harsh as it seems Rochford was treated by the powers that be in Mayo, the County Board there have to move on immediately and pinpoint a person they see fit to carry the fight in 2019.

If he wanted the job, Tony McEntee should be considered.

Previously a selector with the team, of course, McEntee’s credentials are superb.

He is an innovative coach that understands the code for what it is and how it is played and he could represent a shrewder alternative to the names mentioned in the mainstream media and social media these past 36 hours or so.

Mayo still possess the quality to challenge for Sam Maguire. And a voice like McEntee’s might help.

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