Hard work paying off for Tyrone

The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.

Hard work paying off for Tyrone

I would imagine the above quotation would appeal to the Tyrone U21 manager, Feargal Logan.

Speak to Logan or any of his players and the phrase ‘hard work’ crops up repeatedly.

In a newspaper interview on the eve of his team’s preliminary round match against Fermanagh, Logan referred to ‘hard work’ half a dozen times.

With Logan, the phrase isn’t just a soundbite. It’s a principle which runs to the core of his very being.

While Tyrone’s Ulster Championship campaign began on Wednesday, March 18, the preparations for that match began much earlier.

Logan’s project started last August — a full eight months before Tyrone’s opening game in Healy Park.

Fermanagh started gathering their players together in January. The Erne lads didn’t stand a chance. Final score: Tyrone 0-17 Fermanagh 0-7.

Armagh didn’t fare much better than Fermanagh. In the semi-final, the Red Hands beat their neighbours by 2-12 to 2-8. A late consolation goal from the Orchard County meant the scoreboard failed to tell the true story of the game. Tyrone were never in danger. Leading by nine points after 23 minutes, it was a procession from start to finish.

A couple of days before their Ulster final clash against Donegal, an interview with Tyrone’s captain Kieran McGeary gave a telling insight into the atmosphere which exists within the county’s U21 squad.

“You want to show people that Tyrone is still there,” said McGeary. “The way the Red Hand has gone this last while, it hasn’t been looking good but hopefully we’ll do something to bring that bit of faith back into it.

“Brian [Dooher] and Peter [Canavan] and Feargal [Logan] like to remind us of where we should be and where we can get to. We always talk about doing things and not just talking about it.

“Every member of the panel, the physio team, the backroom staff, everybody wants to win and the way we went out against Armagh, we were ready to take the walls down.”

Just try to imagine the collective willpower of those three individuals: Feargal Logan, Brian Dooher and Peter Canavan. It’s slightly terrifying.

Feargal Logan is a tightly wound ball of furrowed determination. After retiring from county football, he played with Stewartstown until he was nearly 40. While jostling the demands of running a law firm, Logan was player/manager when Stewartstown won the Ulster junior title in 2004. Before taking over the U21 job in 2013, he spent the previous four years working with Tyrone’s underage development squads.

Apart from captaining Tyrone to All-Ireland senior titles, Peter Canavan (2003) and Brian Dooher (2005 and 2008), share another similarity. Both men were willing to do anything for Tyrone.

That could mean putting their heads where others wouldn’t put their boot. Some great players prefer to leave the dirty work to the foot soldiers. In that respect, Canavan and Dooher were different. For a Tyrone victory, their reputations came second. It was always Tyrone über alles. Teams are borne in the image of their managers so it’s no surprise that the Tyrone U21s are a pretty formidable outfit. The only real surprise about the current outfit is that their victory over Roscommon in the All-Ireland semi-final came as such a shock.

Rated by the bookies as 9/4 outsiders, Tyrone weren’t expected to overcome the back-to-back Connacht champions.

While Feargal Logan described the odds as “understandable” before the game, he was slightly taken aback by the reality of the situation.

In the immediate aftermath of Tyrone’s five-point win in Markievicz Park, the Tyrone manager was still fuming.

“Tell Paddy Power that we are grateful to be 9/4,” said Logan to reporters.

But it wasn’t just the fact that Tyrone went into the game as outsiders which rankled Logan. The manner in which they were dismissed left the Tyrone manager seething.

A preview in a national newspaper that failed to mention a single Tyrone player was produced from Logan’s wallet.

Pointing to the offending article which was covered in highlighter ink, Logan slammed the author of the preview saying: “He didn’t even know the name of any of our players this morning. Whoever he is, he doesn’t know a Tyrone player’s name. Four Roscommon players are named. But Tyrone’s star men are on the sideline. Ask him who the star men are now.”

When it was put to Logan that this ignorance about Tyrone was perhaps a reflection of how his county’s stock had fallen, he countered immediately.

“They should get the names of the players. They should give them the respect they deserve... He named Canavan and Dooher and said the star men are on the sideline.”

Before the All-Ireland final against Tipperary on May 2, the previews in most newspapers will probably feature the name of Cathal McShane, the Tyrone midfielder who showcased his rich tapestry of skills in Markievicz Park.

In a team in which every player subsumes themselves in the collective effort, McShane’s flair still managed to shine brightly. From Owen Roe O’Neill’s, a Division Three club in the north of the county, McShane has got that little bit of magic which sets him apart from the standard citizen.

Yet, for all his individuality, McShane sounded a familiar message. The Tyrone players have been well indoctrinated.

During his brief interview with reporters, McShane said that Feargal Logan “puts in a lot of hard work”.

Commenting on his own performance, McShane said it was the result of “working hard and training hard, getting my gym sessions in, and getting out on the field and trying my hardest.”

Ahead of the final in a fortnight’s time, McShane plans to “keep going and working hard”.

It’s not just children who repeat what they hear. For Tyrone’s last Ulster U21 title in 2006, the victory barely raised a cheer. At that time, the county was still basking in the glory of their second All-Ireland title. An All-Ireland minor crown had been lifted in 2004. The provincial U21 success was just further confirmation that the county was going to dominate for years.

However, nine years passed before Feargal Logan’s team ended Tyrone’s barren run. During that period, the Red Hands have learned to put huge store in the U21 grade.

Unlike Kerry, who can engineer All-Ireland titles from nowhere, Tyrone’s success can usually be traced back to the U21 grade.

The Tyrone team which contested the All-Ireland final in 1995 included 10 graduates from the team which won All-Ireland U21 medals in 1991 and 1992.

When Tyrone made the breakthrough in 2003, a dozen of the players from that team had won All- Ireland U21 medals.

If the Tyrone seniors are to return to winning ways, Logan & Co realise that the process will once again have to start in the U21 grade.

Right now, they are 60 minutes away from making that happen. Tipperary will form stiff opposition.

Having beaten Dublin after extra-time, the Munster champions are no strangers to adversity.

But if Tipp are to win the All-Ireland title, they will have to delve deeper again.

Pitted against a Tyrone side that will “take the walls down”, Tipperary will need to be prepared to work harder than they have ever worked before.

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