Monday 18 December 2017

McMahon not ready to walk away just yet

Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Had things turned out differently, one of Joe McMahon's last acts as a Tyrone footballer would have been to kick a point in an All-Ireland quarter-final.

And that would have been it.

McMahon lasted just nine minutes of that win over Monaghan last year, and despite a trip to England for a "quick fix" operation, the semi-final against Kerry would come too soon.

The injury prompted a winter of introspection. The Omagh St Enda's man is 33 now and might have walked away as the groin injury is serious enough to keep him out until the latter stages of the League.

But something kept tugging at his sleeve.

"In the off-season, I was thinking about where I was at and (I was) taking a lot of confidence from the team that went out against Kerry and maybe had opportunities to go out and win the game," McMahon said at the return of the GAA's La na gClubanna on May 8.

"I feel that certainly there is a good bunch of lads there and I would like to support them in their transition coming through and anything I can do to help them along on and off the pitch as players.

"I would like to give it another go because of the way it ended and hopefully come back in or around April time and go at it again when the ground is a wee bit flatter."

There are risks of course. McMahon has heard stories from former players about finding their bodies hardly fit for purpose not long after retiring after years at the coal face.

McMahon is facing into a 13th season with the county squad but the potential ability of the current side was just too good to walk away from.

"The confidence is there, the ability is there skill-wise and the application is there. The way the game has come along and changed over the years. . . in terms of the way the player themselves, the athlete, is being developed, maybe is taking precedence over the skill level.

"But certainly with a lot of these boys, the skill level is there and is continually worked on," said McMahon who worked as a coach with the Ulster Council for eight years.

"They certainly have the potential to go on over the next number of years and maybe win another All-Ireland again. The confidence from winning (at underage) before will help that along."

Tyrone will have to challenge for All-Ireland honours from Division 2 and McMahon admits it isn't ideal. No team has managed to win the All-Ireland from outside the top flight of the League since Armagh in 2002.

"This year there are tough games in Division 2, certainly a lot of Ulster teams.

"Those games will serve us well. Ultimately you are looking to your own personal performance and maybe the opposition might not be as tough as Division 1," said McMahon.


"That's where you want to be playing your football to compete in the All-Ireland series.

"We are always looking at our own benchmarks but the likes of Derry and Galway are top teams and they will be difficult games."

Meanwhile, Tyrone manager Mickey Harte has defended Tiernan McCann's role in the incident that saw Derry's Brendan Rogers sustain a nasty facial injury that required 14 stitches.

Oak Leaf manager Damian Barton later suggested that some people were "horrified" by the injury.

"If anybody wants to really look closely at the footage. . . if you thought that Tiernan McCann had any malicious intent, he would have been looking at the person he intended to do that with," Harte countered.

"He actually has his eyes on the ball. He turns his body in to reach for the ball and in fact I would believe he wanted to take the ball and swivel away from the contact altogether in one go.

"But, he reached in and didn't quite get the ball. They were just too close to each other and they hit.

"That was very unfortunate for young Rogers, and we would never want any young player to be injured like that at all.

"The outcome was horrific, but the incident was not."

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