Thursday 8 December 2016

'We've all done stuff we wish we hadn't done' - McCann

Published 20/07/2016 | 02:30

Tiernan McCann celebrates following Tyrone's victory in the Ulster SFC Final last Sunday. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Tiernan McCann celebrates following Tyrone's victory in the Ulster SFC Final last Sunday. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

It wasn't exactly an act of contrition but, reading between the lines, Tiernan McCann wished he could roll back the clock, the 11 or so months since Tyrone's All-Ireland quarter-final win over Monaghan.

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His 'dive' that prompted Darren Hughes' red card after the Monaghan man petulantly tousled his hair caused a storm that was still reverberating last week when Mayo's Aidan O'Shea found himself in the firing line for the manner of his fall to win a penalty against Fermanagh.

McCann has transformed his game from an energetic half-forward who ran down too many cul de sacs to a more orderly half-back timing his incisions much better to maximise his electrifying pace.

But moving on from last August has taken more time, though he is hoping that Sunday's Ulster title will help to place it further in the rear-view mirror.

"Hindsight is a wonderful thing and we have all done stuff we would probably wished we hadn't, or done differently," he said at yesterday's All-Ireland football series launch in Abbotstown.

"That's life, it is something I have had to learn from and move on from. That was what I did last year and what I have had to carry through to 2016."

He acknowledges it was a difficult period. His family were on holiday in Portugal at the time. It was character building, he feels.

"It made me stronger as a person, and I just had to concentrate on the next game because it was just two weeks later and then, after the Kerry game, that was the year over," he said. "So it has been a while since it has been talked about.

"The last couple of days it has been brought up again with Aidan O'Shea. I just really parked it and concentrated on myself. Hopefully people will be talking about footballing performances rather than what happened last year."

McCann said the players were thrilled to be able to deliver an Ulster title for Mickey Harte, more than five years on from the tragic death of his daughter Michaela.

Sean Cavanagh referenced Michaela and former colleagues Cormac McAnallen and Paul McGirr in his acceptance speech, and the strength they have drawn from such adversity is something that Harte drives himself, McCann feels.

"We're always thinking of them. Tyrone has had its tragedies over the years and no man more than Mickey Harte knows that," he said.

"It galvanises the group. Mickey's son Mick is the team physio and he has Mickey's grandchildren in there after every game. They're good craic having them about.

"It's just great that we're able to finally. . . that that's the first major trophy since some of those events unfolded and it's just fantastic to have that now.

"Mickey is so strong and faithful that he just perseveres. Whenever adversity comes he always responds well to it. He's so positive about everything. He's always looking to the future and it's through him that we've come through things like this.

"He talks so well, his vocabulary is amazing. I keep coming back to it but he is so positive. Everything is about what we can do better.

"He would say, 'if we were doing this again, what would we do differently to get a better result?', rather than, 'Jesus lads, what are you doing, you shouldn't have done that?'.

"He is a great man and a father figure. We all look up to him and believe in what he is doing."

The other great influence within the group, Cavanagh, posted a picture of himself doing a recovery session on Monday, underlining to McCann the commitment he gives.

"He has five All-Stars, three All-Irelands, Player of the Year award, he has got everything and he is still working so hard, the day after an Ulster final doing a recovery session at 33," he said.

On his own role, McCann reckons it's no different to last year.

"People don't understand, I wasn't playing half-forward last year, I was dropping back. So numbers are a wee bit skewed and the way we play, numbers don't mean nothing," he said.

Irish Independent

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