Alan Brogan: I wanted to beat Tyrone - even more than Kerry
TYRONE were the team I wanted to beat more than anyone when I played for Dublin. Yes, more than Kerry. Much more.
Both of those teams inflicted horrible pain on us over those few years but Tyrone were different.
My Mam’s from Kerry and I knew a lot of the Kerry lads so I could just about stomach losing to them
Or at least, I could get over it quicker.
They’d won a couple of All-Irelands. They’d spooked Kerry. They were household names.
But mostly, we didn’t like them and they didn’t seem to like us.
They had this weird aura around them because they’d come from nowhere and we didn’t know any of them.
Judging by how they interacted on the pitch, they didn’t seem particularly inclined to get to know any of us either.
Things got fairly fraught between Dublin and Tyrone in the middle part of the last decade.
When we played them, we went to war and it became an edgy, narky sort of relationship.
Obviously there was the ‘Battle of Omagh’ too, which didn’t exactly help diplomatic relations.
That team, with Conor Gormley, Ryan McMenamin, Philly Jordan, Joe McMahon - they were hard and physical and took up permanent residency in your face when you played them.
There was bitterness there between the teams and the row in Omagh heightened that to the point where hatred festered between Dublin and Tyrone.
It was all left in the past when the teams broke up but at the time, it was fairly intense.
I’m starting to think it was because we didn’t know any of them personally.
Most fellas you play against, you’ve met them before.
You’ve been in college with them or in their company on an All Stars trip and you knew their form.
But I wouldn’t have known any of the Tyrone lads. I still don’t.
For that reason, you didn’t know what to make of them.
And when you don’t know what to make of a fella, you don’t want to give him an inch because you don’t know how to take him or how he perceives you.
So no-one took a backwards step. And that was the nub of all the hostility.
Plus, they were a great team and we wanted to be one.
Everybody remembers the 2011 All-Ireland final and for completely different reasons, the semi-final with Donegal but few enough people recall the quarter-final that year against Tyrone.
That was the making of us that year. It was a huge win.
We hadn’t won an All-Ireland at that stage and they had a handful of fellas in their team that evening who had three medals and had inflicted sickening defeats on us in 2005 and ’08.
It was probably one of the most complete performances I was involved in with Dublin.
We didn’t hammer them but we were dominant all over the pitch and clocked up 0-22 on a night when Diarmuid Connolly shot the lights out.
Now we hadn’t exactly slayed the beast. Tyrone were on the wane at that stage, but it gave us great confidence to beat them like that.
And I’d imagine that’s the way Mickey Harte will view the semi-final in a couple of weeks time - a chance for his team to establish their All-Ireland credentials against one of the very best.
We’ll see a Tyrone with that sort of edge about them, the ‘win at all costs’ mentality that the last team had and profited richly from. From the outside, Harte looks like he’s trying to build that character in the team.
It appears as though he’s trying to mould them in the image of the side that tormented us in the noughties.
That was the other thing that made Tyrone seem different somehow back then - their manager.
Harte is one of the great managers.
He built a brilliant football team and won three All-Irelands in six years despite fact that the county hadn’t won one in their history.
They came out of their running battle with another great team, Jack O’Connor and Pat O’Shea’s Kerry, on the credit side.
But we didn’t know Mickey Harte either. We didn’t know his form. He had this mystique about him.
He’d do interviews where it seemed like butter wouldn’t melt but then his team took to the field and they were like a pack of animals.
Honestly, to this day, I still don’t know whether Mickey Harte is different behind closed doors, whether he generated that aggression and in some cases, nastiness, in his team or whether that was a natural by-product of the sort of players he had in it.
None of that antipathy lingered, mind.
We left it all on the pitch.
I usually had the pleasure of Gormley’s company when we met Tyrone and he was a hard man but he was also one of the best I played on, a brilliant reader of the game and I loved those battles.
When Joe McMahon retired, I sent him a message on Twitter to say well done on a great career and let him know I enjoyed the games we had over the years.
He said the same back.
Over the next few years, it’d great to get to meet some of those guys because besides being a brilliant team, they were clearly big and interesting characters.
And to this day, I still don’t really know any of them.
But mostly, we didn’t like them (Tyrone) and they didn’t seem to like us.