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'Everybody asked me, why wouldn't you go to Australia? I think today answers that'

After turning down an AFL offer, Cathal McShane got to savour All-Ireland glory with Tyrone.

Cathal McShane celebrates Tyrone's victory.
Cathal McShane celebrates Tyrone's victory.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

CONTRAST EARLY 2020 and late 2021 for Cathal McShane.

Last year began on a turbulent note. In January, he jetted off to Australia for a trial with Adelaide Crows.

Uncertainty surrounded his sporting future as the temptation was there to pursue a different route in a professional atmosphere.

But by February he had decided to double down and commit his loyalty to the Tyrone cause.

Now he will head into winter this year on a joyous note as an All-Ireland senior champion.

“Everybody asked me, why wouldn’t you go to Australia? Why do you want to stay with Tyrone? I think today answers that question. This is what it’s all about. This is what I grew up in my club Eoghan Roes dreaming of winning Sam Maguire.

“Watching Peter Canavan, Brian Dooher lift Sam Maguires, that’s just the icing on the cake really today just to get over the line and make sure Sam is coming back to Tyrone.”

McShane’s journey to glory on Saturday was not just about parking any Aussie Rules ambitions.

michael-mckernan-and-cathal-mcshane-celebrate-with-the-trophy Michael McKernan and Cathal McShane celebrate with the trophy. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

A few weeks after nailing his colours to the Tyrone mast in February 2020, he lined out in Tuam Stadium in a league match against Galway.

It proved a shattering day as Tyrone were hammered on the scoreboard and McShane suffered a serious ankle injury.

He was sidelined for the rest of the year and has only worked his way back to fitness this summer.

“It was a very, very bad injury. Whenever I did the research and got the full diagnosis of it all, the chances of doing the injury that I had was a 1% or 2% chance. Very rare.

“At the start, I thought it might be too bad but obviously it progressed to be worse.  I didn’t have the access to the physios as much as I would have wanted to. Covid did play a huge part in that.

“But again it was all new to me and we didn’t know Covid was coming. It may have delayed me a bit getting back in but again I say these things happen, so they always happen for a reason. 

“Many dark days over lockdown. Even being in the gym myself and after five or 10 minutes realising this isn’t going to work. You just have to go home. There’s a lot of emotion that comes along with it but I got great help with physios and different men throughout and I can’t be thankful enough to them.

“They have really helped me and driven me on, my family and my friends, my girlfriend Kaitlynn as well. I’m very proud of myself to get back to where I’ve got to now and there’s no stopping us. 

“I’ve worked really hard and I think I’ve shown out there that I’m more than capable. It’s just a matter of getting more minutes and I’ll be glad to go back to club in a few weeks time and build with them.”

cathal-mcshane-celebrates-with-sky-sports-peter-canavan Cathal McShane celebrates after the game with Peter Canavan. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

McShane has had to adjust to a changed role in the Tyrone setup as inched back from injury. The fulcrum of the Tyrone attack in 2019, an All-Star winner that year, he has been sprung from the bench in recent weeks.

He hit a point in the Ulster final against Monaghan, 1-3 against Kerry a fortnight ago and then a priceless goal on Saturday against Mayo.

Just like he did when the Tyrone U21s won the All-Ireland in 2015 against Tipperary, McShane popped up with a goal when his side needed it most.

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“You’re just coming on, you’re trying to make an impact straight away. The move that actually happened, we’ve worked on. It’s not just a fluke or whatever. We try to make the most of the opportunity that arises and thankfully the ball rattled the net. So I was delighted.

“I kind of had a good insight to when I would be needed today. Again it was going to be early, so prepared well for that. I guess whenever coming on, there’s no better feeling than sticking it in the net straight away.”

Six years after that U21 success, McShane shared in another All-Ireland winning moment with Tyrone team-mates.

“It’s just the amount of work these lads have put in over, not just this year, over the last six, seven years. Some of that squad has come through from U21s, look at me and Frank Burns, Conor McKenna, Lee Brennan, boys that have come through from the minors, we played here against Mayo in the minors back in 2013.

“You know, it’s been a real journey for some of the players. We got to meet the likes of Paudie Hampsey, Kieran McGeary, all those lads at U21s.

“Then it was just a dream come true to come on to the senior setup, meet the likes of Mattie Donnelly and Ronan McNamee and boys like that. So it was really together, gelled well and just promised ourselves we’d do everything to get Sam back up the road. And thankfully that’s the case.”

- Originally published at 06.00

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Fintan O'Toole

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