Leaders standing up for Tyrone as they prepare for Division 4 final

Great men who changed the course of history by bringing three All-Ireland titles to Tyrone during the last decade have drifted into the shadows.
Leaders standing up for Tyrone as they prepare for Division 4 final
Mattie Donnelly

Sean Cavanagh now stands alone as the only remaining link with the team that won the county’s first All-Ireland in 2003, and he will lead the Red Hands into battle against Derry on Sunday.

Not so long ago, Cavanagh was surrounded by men who seized responsibility by instinct and fearlessly took on mighty challenges, turning them into triumphs.

Peter Canavan, Brian Dooher, Cormac McAnallen, Philip Jordan, Ryan McMenamin and many others stood tall as heroic giants as Tyrone marched to magnificent wins.

Eight years on from their last Sam Maguire success, Tyrone are turning heads again, winning admirers and provoking speculation that they could be on the cusp of a second coming. New leaders have emerged to take up the baton and provide the latest project with leadership, focus and direction, men like Peter Harte and Mattie Donnelly, both All-Ireland minor winners back in 2008.

Sean Cavanagh
Sean Cavanagh

But Harte admits it has taken time to assume the role.

“When we came into it, we had All-Ireland winners everywhere sitting all around us, so it was hard to speak out. That just takes time and takes probably a bit of confidence. It’s probably just a natural process. The longer you spend in the panel, the more you see the trend that happens year-in, year-out. Maybe you learn something that has happened a season or two before, and you see younger boys coming through it whether it is a confidence issue, or teams we have come up against before.”

Harte may not be the most vociferous team member, but he has an air of authority younger players respond to.

Since he joined the senior squad six years ago, Harte has had to adapt his game, not only in terms of the various positions he has been asked to play, but also in response to the growing demands placed on an inter-county footballer.

“The change from when I first came into the panel is massive. At the start, the gym work was maybe something that you were told to do, or some people did, but it was by no means a wholesale thing. But now, every team, no matter what division, is doing that, and the level of training has gone up, and your lifestyle away from the pitch has changed. Everything is directed towards and focused on your football.

“If you’re not, you’re probably on a road to nowhere, so that’s what you have to do.

Mattie Donnelly
Mattie Donnelly

“Over the last few years, teams have settled into systems, rather than letting people go out and play, but here in Tyrone we have always been used to playing a certain way, and being taught to play a certain way and trained to do it.”

The most important thing for Tyrone is to produce a performance, get out of Celtic Park with a win and remain on course for a much-needed provincial title.

“Tyrone haven’t been successful in the last few years, and if you look in the changing room now, there probably isn’t that many boys who have a medal. So that’s the target, to try and get yourself an Ulster Championship medal.”

Here’s a little extra sport: BallTalk TV preview the Munster Senior Hurling Championship clash between Cork and Tipperary.

More in this section

Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day.

Sport
Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up
Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day.