A first Ulster title since 2010 was welcomed by Tyrone in 2016, but that was as good as it got when defeat to Mayo at the quarter-final stage ended their season. All eyes are focused on ensuring 2017 is different.
This weekend sees one of GAA’s most eye-catching rivalries reignite as Tyrone take on Armagh in the first of this Sunday’s All-Ireland quarter-finals. Speaking to GAA.ie, Tyrone’s full-back Ronan McNamee was clear in his words, that Tyrone have learned their lessons from 2016’s defeat;
“It was a sore one and a hard one to get over because we knew we had underperformed and still weren’t a million miles away from getting something out of the game.
“Having seen where Mayo went to, getting to an All Ireland Final and being within a whisker of winning it, you tend to put yourself in that position and sort of think it could have been you. Hopefully we can right the wrongs from last year.”
McNamee was also vocal on the togetherness that has developed within this Tyrone group under Mickey Harte’s stewardship. He is hopeful that the experiences of last season and this season will stand to the squad as they move onto the business end of the football season.
“I think we are in a better place this year than we were last year. Naturally enough with another year of experience and another year of playing together with some fresh faces too, I definitely feel we are in a better place, not that we were in a bad place last year.
Year on year you’ll be improving. Naturally enough you will be getting used to each other more and I think we are close and an extremely tight bunch as a group of players.”
Tyrone have been building. They were talked up as All-Ireland contenders in 2016. 2017 has seen them perform to a higher level so far. They racked up some big scores on their way to winning back-to-back Ulster titles.
They are now in a good position to progress and ensure they go at least one step further than they managed in 2016.
“It was our second Ulster title as a group and for some of the lads it was their first time so you have to take that into account, they are in the position that we were in last year, a first time in an Ulster Final, they were as keen and as hungry to get their hands on an Ulster medal, we are delighted to do back to back Ulsters.
If anybody had given us this scenario at the start of last year you’d have taken their hand off to get it. We are just delighted to be in the position we are in.”
A lot of attention is being paid to the subplot of Armagh-Tyrone reproducing the games of the early 2000’s. A lot of McNamee’s words suggest that Tyrone are very focused on their own performance and their own destiny as they aim to correct their failings at this stage of last season.
Check out the latest episode of The 16th Man where we review last weekend’s action, as well as previewing all the biggest upcoming championship matches