Tyrone deserve credit… there, I said it!
For nearly two full decades, the Red Hands have dined at Gaelic football’s top table winning three All-Ireland titles and seven Ulster Championships.
Despite the fact their last All-Ireland win came over a decade ago, Mickey Harte’s men have consistently competed in the latter stages of the championship.
Since 2008, they’ve reached six All-Ireland semi-finals, one final and have only failed to reach the last eight twice.
Staggering numbers and worthy of high praise but how often over those past 12 years have they genuinely looked like winning Sam Maguire?
Hotly tipped in 2017, the Red Hands were blown out of the water by Dublin and while they started the 2018 final well, the game was effectively over by half-time.
Cathal McShane’s form probably should have seen them into the final last season but they faltered badly down the home stretch against Kerry.
This isn’t a dig at Tyrone. Honestly.
They are one of the best teams in Ireland. They are in your face and hard to beat, with an arrogance that only Tyrone and their support base could exude.
The harsh reality though is that, despite their consistency, they haven’t looked like All-Ireland winners for a long, long time.
And the reason they haven’t looked like taking home the big one is that they lack an attacking division capable of going toe-to-toe with a Dublin or a Kerry.
This could be set to change in 2020.
After what was the juiciest transfer story to hit the GAA since Seanie Johnston’s ill-fated move to Kildare, Cathal McShane finally closed the door on the Adelaide Crows last week. Much to the delight of Tyrone and indeed any purists out there who strongly disagree with the AFL’s ‘poaching’ of our top talent.
McShane’s switch to full-forward in 2019 added a fresh dynamic to Tyrone, one we probably hadn’t seen since Sean Cavanagh’s switch to the same position in 2008. The Owen Roes man was prolific in front of goals and a good old fashioned nightmare for the modern full-back.
As stated above, his form alone almost propelled Tyrone to an All-Ireland final. And, lest we forget, McShane was a shoo-in at 14 to win an attacking All-Star award in what was one of the most competitive years ever.
On top of all this, if reports are to be believed that Conor McKenna’s return to Ireland is an indefinite one, all of a sudden, Tyrone look like a team who could break the Dublin dynasty.
For those that don’t remember, the Eglish man was an underage phenom. Tyrone simply would not have won an All-Ireland Minor title in 2012 without him and I think they’d admit as much. If you need proof of how good he was [is], just watch the video below.
Of course, whether will remain on these shores is all hearsay at the moment. However, there is a sense that McKenna could be coming back for good and at 23, there’s still plenty of time for him to leave a lasting impression.
Despite their consistency, Tyrone have been hammered from pillar to post over the past number of seasons. Until the McShane experiment, they had been branded as one-dimensional and overly defensive. While high-profile exits such as Ronan O’Neill’s painted the picture of a team were forwards weren’t allowed to express themselves.
All of a sudden, the Red Hand rises as Tyrone begin to strike fear again. In an ideal world, if Harte is able to call upon both McShane and McKenna this summer, then we’re looking at genuine All-Ireland contenders.
Not many would have said that a week ago.