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Former Tyrone star Tiernan McCann says ‘Kerry hammering was best thing that ever happened to us’

No Tyrone U-Turn for Tiernan as he recalls defeat that set them on glory trail

Tyrone's Tiernan McCann celebrates after his side's victory in the 2021 All-Ireland SFC final against Mayo at Croke Park. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile© SPORTSFILE

Tiernan McCann© SPORTSFILE


TIERNAN McCANN has ruled out a return to the Tyrone set-up in 2023, insisting he is content with his decision to concentrate on his club.

The Killyclogher man was part of the Red Hand squad that claimed All-Ireland glory in 2021 under the joint management ticket of Brian Dooher and Feargal Logan but, along with a handful of other panel members, stepped away from the set-up before Tyrone’s doomed defence of Sam Maguire this season.

And speaking to Shane Rice on episode one of ‘The Off Season’ on YouTube, McCann confirmed his county days were behind him.

“I’m 31 now,” McCann said. “I feel like I had nine years, nine long but unreal years at it.

“I fully enjoyed it and as I said previously this year I’m very much looking forward to getting back to the club and giving it everything from the start of the year.”

As it happened, McCann was one of seven players to leave the squad in the early part of this year. Mark Bradley, Paul Donaghy, Ronan O’Neill, Lee Brennan, Hugh Pat McGeary, and Michael Cassidy also stepped away at various stages.

And if it looked like the mood music around the Tyrone camp wasn’t good, the performances bore that out. Their Division 1 status was in doubt until the final day when they went to Killarney and beat Kerry in what was a dead-rubber game for the Kingdom.

The championship saw them beat Fermanagh before going down heavily to Derry in Ulster. They couldn’t right the ship quickly enough and lost to Armagh in the back door.

And McCann reckons that most of those who left the Tyrone set-up in 2022 simply wanted to see more minutes on the pitch.

“(They left) literally all (for) individual reasons. All the lads had their own individual reason for doing it and I completely understand all of them.

“It was a matter of getting the All-Ireland and knowing it was going to be very tough to retain that and maybe (they) didn’t get enough football in 2021 and wanted to get back to the club.

“And maybe at this stage of their careers they just want to be playing football week in week out and maybe realised that wasn’t going to be the case with Tyrone.

“It’s such a competitive 15 to get into or even getting into the match-day squad and I know the lads haven’t looked back since.

“And the fact that Tyrone club football is so strong you get back into a good league you play 16 games and a championship game, 17 or 18 games a year, it’s a good decision to make.”

McCann had featured in every championship game in Tyrone’s All-Ireland winning year with the exception of the Ulster final, which he missed through illness.

He departs the inter-county stage as an All-Ireland winner and pointed to their now very heavy league defeat (6-15 to 1-14) in Killarney in June 2021 as the pivotal moment in their season, describing it as “probably the best thing that ever happened to us”.

“We went down to Kerry and we got absolutely hammered. You know how that went.

“And that led into the championship. We won five games, won the All-Ireland, the rest is history.

I think after the Kerry game we did serious running for two or three weeks.

“We got back to basics, it was probably the shock we needed, probably the best thing that ever happened to us and we probably realised you can’t go to Kerry and not play a sweeper and go man on man.

“So it was great to get that kick up the a** early on in the year and it was great to get those few weeks of really hard training.

“Sometimes maybe in GAA, maybe it’s the culture that when you get a really bad beating it goes back to ‘we are not working hard enough, we are not fit’.

“But the side effect from that is you get to build a stronger mentality, and a wee bit of adversity and you know you have the tough work done and it’s easy to call on that later in the championship when you have to in a tight game.”

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