The Red Hand man was widely pilloried for dropping dramatically to the turf last August after his hair was touched by Monaghan’s Darren Hughes in the All-Ireland quarter-finals.
Hughes was shown a red card by referee Marty Duffy and later admitted he was “in a state of shock” after the incident.
McCann has since redeemed himself on the football pitch with some terrific displays for Tyrone who are unbeaten in all competitions since losing the 2015 All-Ireland semi-final to Kerry.
But the player admitted it was a difficult period immediately after the flash point with various commentators and social media users laying into him.
“It was,” nodded McCann. “We won at the end but the talk after it was (about the incident). My family were on holiday in Portugal so I was at home, it was tough. But it made me stronger as a person. I just had to concentrate on the next game really because it was just two weeks later and then after the Kerry game the year was over.
“It has been a while now since it has been talked about. But the last couple of days it has been brought up again, the Aidan O’Shea thing in Mayo saw it brought up. I just really parked it and concentrated on myself.
“Hopefully people will be talking about footballing performances rather than what happened last year. I have just been concentrating on my football since then, going out every day and working as hard as I can.”
Asked if he felt his reaction to Hughes’ gesture was over the top at the time, McCann shrugged.
“Obviously hindsight is a wonderful thing and we have all done stuff we would probably wish we hadn’t or wish we’d done differently but that’s life, it’s something I have had to learn from and move on from. That was what I did last year and what I have had to carry through to this year.”
McCann has shown impressive resolve to set aside the incident and push on to new levels of performance. Mind you, his travails pale in comparison to the tragedies that have hit Tyrone over the years and, particularly, manager Mickey Harte.
Tyrone captain Sean Cavanagh name-checked Harte’s daughter Michaela, who was murdered on her honeymoon in 2011, during his victory speech after Sunday’s Ulster final win over Donegal. He also mentioned Cormac McAnallen and Paul McGirr, two young Tyrone players who passed away at a young age.
“We’re always thinking of them,” said McCann. “Tyrone has had its tragedies over the years and no man knows that more than Mickey Harte. It galvanises the group. Mickey’s son, Mick, is is the physio with the team and he has his children in there after every game. It’s good craic having them about. It’s just great that this is the first major trophy since some of those events unfolded that we’ve been able to win, it’s just fantastic to have that now.”
Tyrone’s strong form all year has marked them out as serious All-Ireland contenders and, if both teams keep winning, Tyrone will face Dublin on All-Ireland final day on September 18.
Ironically, it’s just 15 months ago that Tyrone were largely written off as a Championship force after relegation from Division 1 of the Allianz League.
“When we got relegated last year there was a lot of people saying this Tyrone team isn’t anywhere near the teams of the past,” noted McCann. “But maybe getting compared to them is unfair because they were the golden generation with three All-Irelands and whoever is coming after them is always going to be contrasted to them.”
One of the barbs thrown at Tyrone by critics throughout spring and early summer was that they still hadn’t faced a Division 1 team though they met Donegal’s considerable challenge head on last Sunday, conjuring two dramatic late points to seal victory.
McCann said the players knew they had to ‘walk the walk’ heading out for the second-half in Clones and compared the black card dismissal of Mattie Donnelly to “like Ronaldo going off last week for Portugal”.
“Portugal just raised their game and it was the same sort of thing for us, we just realised, ‘now is the time to lift it’,” said McCann.