Performances give hope for Tyrone and Mickey Harte next season
I find it slight amusing that people were surprised at the strength of Tyrone's challenge last Sunday.
The over-arching narrative is that of a team transformed since the start of the year. But during the National League, Tyrone competed strongly against the very best teams in Dublin, Mayo and Cork. Strangely, it was the Ulster sides of Derry, Monaghan and Donegal who they struggled against, with two of those games at home.
The performance against Donegal in the Championship was very good. There was tenacity and real drive about the Tyrone team. The result was crystallised by the quality of free-kicks; Michael Murphy scored Donegal's difficult kicks, while Tyrone missed theirs.
They experienced a lull for the first couple of games in the qualifiers. Players had gone back to their clubs and some decided to commit for the rest of the season with the club. Hence, it took a few games in the qualifiers to get going again.
But since that, they have been a team moving in the right direction again and they have now given hope, moving forward for 2016.
The invaluable experience garnered by the likes of Mark Bradley, Ruairi Brennan, Conor Meyler, Cathal McShane, Pádraig McNulty, and Tiernan McCann will stand to them. A league campaign away from the harsh scrutiny of Division One might not do any harm.
The team will now hope that the likes of Sean Cavanagh and Joe McMahon will stay on. It's imperative that a few older heads remain with them and Tyrone can look forward to 2016 with some optimism.
As for the wisest head, well, Mickey Harte's appetite has not diminished. The manner of the performances in this year's Championship, along with the barrage of criticism that has come our way, has energised him.
He has already spoken to the players and I expect preparations for next season to be already underway.