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There’s more to come from Tyrone says McShane

By Niall Gartland

THE hand of God? How about the ‘hand of McShane’? That’s how Tyrone’s goalkeeping hero Cathal McShane jokingly refers to his clever flick-on which bamboozled Mayo goalkeeper Rob Hennelly and opened daylight between the two teams at a crucial juncture in last Saturday’s All-Ireland final.

But the Owen Roes man is also happy to acknowledge that it wouldn’t have been possible without an absolutely gorgeous cross-field pass from footballer of the year contender Conor Meyler, whom he’s soldiered alongside for many-a-year.

Speaking at Sunday’s joyous homecoming in O’Neill’s Healy Park, McShane said: “I was joking with Conor, saying he didn’t mean it. But he’s been brilliant all year, he’s a real leader.

“We’ve been involved in a few teams now, we won a Sigerson Cup with St Mary’s and played on the Tyrone U21s together, so to win an All-Ireland final together was great.

“We’d actually talked about the move in training – I said that if the ball over the top was on, then go for it. He looked up and saw the opportunity was there, I knew I was close to goal, I got the hand on it and I was buzzing afterwards.”

It’s no exaggeration to say that this is the fulfilment of a dream for McShane. He was only seven years old when Owen Roes clubmate Declan McCrossan brought the Sam Maguire into Glenmornan back in 2003, and he hopes their latest All-Ireland success will inspire youngsters across Tyrone.

“I remember the photo of Deccy bringing Sam into Glenmornan, and it’d be brilliant if we’re able to do that at some stage. It’d be brilliant to bring the trophy back to Tyrone, but it’d be class to bring Sam back to the club as well.

“The players in the noughties were role models for us, they were stars. I remember as a kid seeing the players and being in awe of them.

“Hopefully we can inspire the kids to go onto play for Tyrone. It was class after the final having my Godson Kian on the pitch, we had him in the cup and everything. Hopefully we can inspire more kids to get out and play the sport we love, that’s what it’s all about at the end of the day.”

It hasn’t been a straightforward 18 months for McShane as he endured a lengthy recuperation from a serious ankle injury.

While he’s had to be content with the impact sub role during the championship, he fulfilled his remit to perfection, scoring 1-3 against Kerry before weighing in with another goal against Mayo.

“It’s definitely different than starting the game. After the warm-up you’re trying to chill out and relax again, try to settle yourself down, but listen, I prepared mentally to really try to make an impact coming on as a sub.

“I do believe I was very close to getting the nod to maybe start at the weekend, but we went with the impact role, and I was very happy with how I did, with my first touch I got the goal.

“Everyone’s so committed, we’ve a panel of 35/40 men, and sadly some men didn’t get to tog out but they’re so so important to what we’re about.

“The positivity that they brought over the weekend was brilliant to see and drove us boys on.

“Over lockdown for myself there were a few dark days, and a few question marks around whether I’d come back to play for Tyrone, and that’s just the fact of the matter. I’m really proud and happy to be back playing.”

McShane is also confident there’s more to come from this Tyrone team – a scary enough proposition for the rest of the country.

“I think looking at yesterday, there’s a lot of emotion in a final, a lot of build-up, and we only had a two-week turnaround from the Kerry game. The sky is the limit for this group, we’ve worked hard not just this year, but the last five or six years.

“A few new faces came in this year and obviously there’s new management, and new voices, but we’ve been lucky to have good management over the years and it’s really given us a platform to go on and have success.

“Brian and Feargal came in with the backroom team and we know the success we had at U21 level, and we drove on this year, every game I felt we got better, and obviously now we’re just going to enjoy this.”

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