Tyrone defender Tiernan McCann admits the sense of rawness after they were squeezed out of their All-Ireland quarter-final against Mayo still hurts. That being said, he can look back on a fine season with Tyrone, who lost just once across their 2016 season

 

Q:

Looking back and with the dust just about starting to settle on Tyrone’s one defeat of the season, how do you review 2016 as a whole?

A:

I think we’ve made progress. We played in five competitions and won four of them. I know two of them were the Ó Fiaich Cup and McKenna Cup at the start of the year but you still want to go out and win them.

The National League was a success and we got promoted to Division 1, winning the Division 2 title beating a tough Cavan team in the final. Then came the Ulster championship – we went to Derry and I don’t think a Tyrone team has ever gone there and won in Celtic Park. We could have lost to Cavan the first day but we managed to hang on and won the second day, correcting a lot of things.

Obviously, we then faced our nemesis Donegal in the final and it was great it was Donegal because we had trouble against them the last four or five years. It looked like we were in a bit of trouble against them that day too at 0-8 to 0-4 down and Mattie Donnelly and Cathal McShane off (with black cards). Our backs were against the wall but we managed to creep over the line that day.

It was fitting the way we did and it meant a lot to people in Tyrone after six years without an Ulster championship. We then had a massive challenge against Mayo and maybe didn’t perform to the standards we usually set out for ourselves. We could have drawn that game and maybe even pipped them but Mayo were deserving winners. That’s the season over but we’ve definitely made progress and regained our Division 1 status and claimed an Ulster championship.

It was a very good chance to push on a wee bit more but that’s life and we met a Mayo team that have been on the road five or six years now and have been so close. It’s only been All-Ireland winners that have beaten them the last few years. It shows the pedigree they have. Maybe this year is their year.

Q:

Would the new All- Ireland football proposals, which would have guaranteed Tyrone three games after winning Ulster, suited Tyrone?

A:

I haven’t looked too much at it but I saw the template on Facebook about how it would look this year. I can understand what people are saying about it being more of a Champions League style format and if you’re caught one day you get a chance to redeem yourselves, which potentially would be good.

Q:

The defeat to Mayo strengthens the argument Ulster is too strong and too tough a competition to win. Your thoughts?

A:

We had to play Derry away, Cavan twice and Donegal to get to the last eight. It’s obviously very difficult but it’s also very rewarding as you saw with the celebrations in Clones. It meant so much and it was such a good feeling to get over the line. When we look back on the season and see the Anglo-Celt Cup sitting up in Garvaghey we’re very happy to have achieved that. There were so many good teams to get over. The Donegals, Cavans, Derrys, Monaghans, even Fermanagh are coming good, while Armagh and Down would probably be disappointed the last couple of years with their own standards but they’re still difficult teams to get over. It’s a tricky one to answer.

Q:

He’s already planning for it but how vital is it that Mickey Harte remains in charge for another season?

A:

He’s colossal to us. I don’t have the time to go over how much Mickey means to Tyrone. He’s the best manager I’ve ever played under and a lot of people would agree with me. He’s adapting all the time and is forward-thinking. With him at the helm, we’ve as good a chance as anyone. Having him as a manager will always put us in good stead.

Q:

What did you make of the criticism of Mickey in the wake of his comments about Seán Cavanagh’s sending off against Mayo?

A:

As far as I’m aware, it was brought up to Mickey in the press conference after and everybody made out Mickey had come out and said this. He was asked and said that Seán would never go looking to get a card in his life, that he was too good a footballer.

Obviously, it was disappointing not to be chatting about the fantastic and tactical game we had, that it could have gone either way and the couple of magnificent scores that got Mayo over the line.

Those are the headlines you want, not Seán or Lee (Keegan) who are two of the best footballers in Ireland. They’re always going to be talked about. If it happened in a qualifier game between two lesser players there would be no talk about it but because it was an All-Ireland quarter-final and the players involved it was always going to be highlighted.

Q:

The unbeaten run Tyrone had coming into the Mayo game – did it just become a habit?

A:

Winning is a great habit and this is why this defeat is still very raw and so disappointing. Mickey said in the changing room after it was the toughest defeat he ever had. He couldn’t think of another one that comes close to it and it’s because we became so used to winning over the year. We had some tough times over the year but we weren’t getting beat and that feeling of hurt... contrast that to Mayo who lost to Galway and learned from it. They’ve been so used to going through Connacht and then getting beaten in All-Ireland semi-finals or finals.

Unfortunately, we had 18 or 19 games when we weren’t beaten and then to lose in the All-Ireland quarter-final stages is not a nice place. There wasn’t much talk on the bus after the game. We’re still not over it but that’s life and we have to get over it.

Q:

How do you see the All-Ireland semi-finals going?

A:

If Mayo can get over Tipperary – and it won’t be easy because Tipperary are playing with this gung-ho approach and smashing in goals – they can go all the way. I’ve met Mickey Quinlivan through our AIB work this year and he’s a genuine fella. But I think Mayo can do enough to get over them and then they can sit back and watch Dublin and Kerry kick the dung out of each other!

Maybe it’s Mayo year. They’re so consistent and they’ve been beaten by Dublin and Kerry but they’re still there with the same players.

  • AIB teamed up with Tyrone & Killyclogher player Tiernan McCann to recap on a memorable Ulster and All Ireland Championship and what lies ahead for the marauding half back.


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