Brian McGuigan: Don't rule out a Lar Corbett job between Tyrone and Mayo

The three-time All-Ireland winner expects an intriguing tactical battle in Saturday's All-Ireland final
Brian McGuigan: Don't rule out a Lar Corbett job between Tyrone and Mayo

Tipperary's Lar Corbett follows Tommy Walsh of Kilkenny during the 2012 All-Ireland SHC final. Picture: INPHO/Cathal Noonan

It was 2012, the year Brian McGuigan returned to the Tyrone fold, the elegant attacker reconsidering retirement after Mickey Harte’s panel suffered untimely injuries ahead of championship.

But it was in that year’s hurling championship that McGuigan clocked an episode he half expects to see repeated in next Saturday’s football final — the infamous Lar Corbett - Tommy Walsh tango.

Speaking of the upcoming tactical battle on this week’s Irish Examiner Gaelic Football Podcast, the three-time All-Ireland winner said: “I think the most interesting thing might be you could have a Lar Corbett situation from the hurling.

“Where you have (Conor) Meyler and Kieran McGeary who could be given jobs of marking Mayo players, because they are good man-markers. And then you have Mayo who are thinking we have to man-mark McGeary and Meyler.

Kieran McGeary, right, and Conor Meyler of Tyrone
Kieran McGeary, right, and Conor Meyler of Tyrone

“So you could have a Tyrone man chasing a Mayo man and a Mayo man chasing a Tyrone man.

“Really McGeary and Meyler are so important to the way this Tyrone team play.”

Beyond tactical nuances, McGuigan has found himself lurching from pessimism to extreme optimism with a Tyrone title tilt he didn’t quite see coming. 

Early in the summer he wasn’t quite sure they “had it in them”, but now he can only see one result.  

“I honestly can’t see any way how Mayo can win it. Though as Pat Spillane says, when you’re trying to go on previous weeks to tip games in this year’s championship it’s nearly impossible.

“I just think Tyrone’s form and the vibes around the county are great.

“Going back to 2018, supporters were going down in hope more than anything. They knew we were coming up against a machine in the Dublin team. This year you can feel it’s different coming up to the match where we really believe we can win this.” 

Part of what appeals to him is how he, one of their most decorated servants, is now completely shut out of the loop. 

“The surprising thing about the Tyrone camp at the minute is… usually in the middle of championship you hear stories coming out of camp, how people are going in in-house matches and that.

“With the whole Covid thing you weren't hearing anything from the panel on what’s going on. People were asking me who has Covid and I’d be talking to a couple of lads on the panel and they weren’t giving away anything at all. I’m sure that’s coming from the management team.” 

Nor will Tyrone be found wanting for a cause.

“We’re talking about how much experience and hurt Mayo have after losing finals. But looking back at the 2018 final, most of those lads on the Tyrone panel were there. So they’ve experienced the hurt too.

“We now have Mattie Donnelly and Peter Harte and those older lads where you get to that stage where this could be the last chance to win an All-Ireland so there is going to be a lot of drive in those boys.

“It’s up to those lads now to make history for themselves. We’re fed up talking about the team of the 2000s. They’ve excited us after the semi-final performance.” 

Just as he returned to help out Harte nine years ago, McGuigan always found himself in his old boss’s corner when the criticism grew louder towards the end of his reign. But he has shifted that position a touch too.

“I would have backed Mickey Harte and said Mickey Harte is playing to the system that suits the players he has at his disposal. 

"If you had told me before Kerry that we’d have gone man for man at the back I’d have said we’d have had no chance. But they really manned up the last day, the defence. I have to say I didn’t think they had it in them. But they really showed Tyrone people what kind of football they can play.

“Now I’ve changed my mind. Fair play to Brian Dooher and Feargal Logan who have come in, put faith in the players, and they are starting to play a bit of football. I just hope it continues against Mayo.”

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