Tyrone defender Barry Tierney has revealed he was taken aback by the fierce criticism he endured after a three-goal mauling by Kerry star James O’Donoghue.
Tierney, who may mark Jamie Clarke in Omagh St Enda’s Ulster club championship clash with Crossmaglen on Sunday, says Tyrone’s league defeat in Killarney in March was “a massive learning experience”.
The 22-year-old, in his first season in senior inter-county football, was lambasted after shipping three goals against the newly crowned player of the year.
Kerry won the game 3-15 to 0-9, inflicting the biggest ever defeat on Tyrone manager Mickey Harte.
“The criticism I got was harsh,” said Tierney. “The game was live on TV and I was getting it from all sides. I didn’t know how to deal with it and it took me a few days to get over it, to be truthful. I’m my own biggest critic anyway so I don’t need people on television or the papers or on Twitter to tell me when I have a good game or a bad game.”
Omagh club-mates Joe and Justin McMahon put an arm around Tierney at county training the following Tuesday night, while Conor Gormley also had words of advice.
“Conor came over to me in the warm-up and said the same thing happened him against Mayo, that (Conor) Mortimer scored three goals off him, and not to worry about it.
“When I saw the year he (O’Donoghue) went on to have, becoming player of the year, I probably took a bit of comfort from that. I thought ‘well it’s not just me had a bad day on him’.
“Keith Higgins is one of the best man-markers in the game and he still scored 2-6 off him so it just shows what a player he is. It was my first year playing football for Tyrone and only my fourth league game and I was marking an All Star, so I learned a lot from it.”
Tierney was in and out of the Tyrone team for the rest of the season — but he has excelled for his club and was man of the match in the county final win over Carrickmore as Omagh won a first county title since 1988. He admits: “All I had in the back of my head was ‘I don’t want this to happen me again and I’m going to prove people wrong’.”
Tierney played Sigerson Cup football for UUJ this year alongside Armagh star Clarke and, while he prefers a more attacking wing-back role, he will have no qualms if asked to shackle the Cross dangerman in Sunday’s provincial club quarter-final at Healy Park.
“I marked him in the McKenna Cup last year and he is a top quality forward, but I won’t look too far ahead of myself. It’s a new thing for Omagh to still be training at this time of year and there is no pressure on us. We put pressure on ourselves to win the O’Neill Cup but the shackles are off now and hopefully we can express ourselves a bit more.”
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