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Familiar faces have pushed Kieran McGeary into Footballer of the Year frame

‘I was just so excited when I heard they were coming in, it just gives you a lift again.’

McGeary: Tyrone star is the Footballer of the Year favourite ahead of Saturday's final.
McGeary: Tyrone star is the Footballer of the Year favourite ahead of Saturday's final.
Image: Lorcan Doherty/INPHO

Updated Sep 9th 2021, 8:47 AM

RIGHT NOW IF you took yourself into a betting shop (can you go into one right now? Do restrictions allow?) you could find yourself musing on the value for the Footballer of the Year award.

Up there, with the narrowest odds, sits Kieran McGeary. Now that’s a surprise to the wider world. And perhaps to many within the county boundaries too.

He’s always been a solid player. Capable of big plays, surely. But Footballer of the Year? In the same bracket as Brian Fenton, Stephen Cluxton, Andy Moran and Lee Keegan? It says something of his flowering under the new management.

In 2015 when Feargal Logan and Brian Dooher were over the county U21s, it was McGeary they chose as their captain ahead of several players who would graduate to senior ranks. He would lift the U21 All-Ireland.

And now reunited, Logan and Dooher have him as vice-captain.

If there’s a Love-Bombing, it’s reciprocated.

“Look, from 2015 right through, just look at the two men, and they’ve done it before wearing the Tyrone jersey, so when they can pass on the experience that have you take it all, grab it all, and try to put as much of that into your game as you can,” says McGeary of the managerial double-act.

Asked what he gels so well with, he elaborates, “Their own wee different traits. Players react in different ways to it.

“We’ve reacted so far fantastically to the two fellas who are in, they’re great Tyrone men, have done the business before, and before they even come in you hold respect to someone like that. Before they put on a manager’s jacket or hat, you hold that respect anyway, regardless. That was one step already.”

Even now with the build up in full swing, there’s something of the surreal about it all. Just over a year ago, Feargal Logan was in charge of Stewartstown, and getting well beaten in the club Intermediate Championship.

Brian Dooher hadn’t any managerial experience since his spell with the U21s as selector to Logan. And yet, here they are now with a senior team backboned by the kids they brought to glory on that soaking night in Parnell Park over Tipperary.

kieran-mcgeary-lifts-the-irish-news-cup McGeary celebrates after captaining Tyrone to the 2015 All-Ireland U21 title. Source: Lorcan Doherty

“I was just so excited when I heard they were coming in, it just gives you a lift again, possibly something new, new tactics, and that’s not saying anything against the two lads before that, I loved the set-up.

“But you know yourself, new things and exciting times and we’re thankful to be sitting where we’re sitting today.”

They do so as a team remarkably similar to Mayo. Same sort of age profile, shaped by the same disappointments and losses, both beaten down by a dominant Dublin over the last decade, Mayo more so.

McGeary was there for the 2018 final and while Mayo have far greater experience of the ebbs and flows of a final day, Tyrone only need one to learn from.

“You soon come to realise that it’s all a formality and that the 70 minutes itself is all that really matters. Everything outside of it can wait,” says McGeary.

“In terms of the game the last day, what did we go, four up against the Dubs on an All-Ireland Final day? Then in the blink of an eye it was five-four, six-four, seven-four and the game sort of ran away from us after that. To know you had it for a certain percentage of the game and then in the blink of an eye or a referee’s decision it’s gone from you. That’s probably the one thing – that anything can happen in this final.”

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The day itself, the aftermath, it all stung. While Feargal Logan has never made a secret of his frustrations of not winning an All-Ireland in his only go at it in 1995, the same applies to this panel. They want to join the exclusive club of Celtic Cross owners in Tyrone.

“It does take a long time to get over because of the effort you’ve put in for the full year and the rest of the team and all the sacrifices that everybody has made,” are McGeary’s thought.

“It eventually hits home after. You get everyone saying, ‘unlucky’, after the last time which cushions you for a while, but it soon hits home that you got beaten in an All-Ireland Final and that’s not nice at all.”

It’s taken a little while to get back. But few worked as devilishly hard as the Pomeroy man in the semi-final win over Kerry, so much so that it gave him another Man of the Match Award.

Afterwards during his interview in the stadium, he began his address, saying, “They say we wouldn’t, we couldn’t, but guess what? We just did it!”

Glorious exuberance in the same vein as Mayo’s Padraig O’Hora in their semi-final in the same position.

“I suppose it was just a bit off the cuff really. It was just immediately after the game, and we were just filled with passion before the game, to see the amount of ones who probably thought we weren’t going to do what we did. So that was sort of where it came from, but it was off the cuff.”

Nothing wrong with that.

About the author:

Declan Bogue

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