1 All-Ireland defence never gets going
FEARGAL Logan and Brian Dooher led Tyrone a fourth ever All-Ireland title in 2021, and hopes were high that they could possibly, just possibly, retain their crown, something never before achieved by a Tyrone team at senior level. From early on though, the signs weren’t good. There was an exodus of players in the early part of the year, and Tyrone’s league campaign was mixed at best. Still though, a stunning victory over Kerry in Killarney (putting it mildly, no easy place to go to) boded well for the championship. Tyrone bowed out rather meekly, however. First of all they came undone in Ulster by a resurgent Derry, and they fell short in the qualifiers against Armagh at the Athletic Grounds. It wasn’t exactly a season for the ages, then, but jibes about Tyrone being the worst All-Ireland champions some time must surely have stung the camp and could act as a motivating factor in 2023. Time will only tell.
2 Poignant season for Tyrone hurlers
TYRONE hurlers had a stunning season on the field of play, winning the Division 3A and Nickey Rackard titles in quite some style (indeed, their performance against Roscommon in the Nickey Rackard showdown was one of the finest in the county’s history). Unfortunately, their season was overshadowed by the untimely death of their scoring talisman Damian Casey. The entire GAA community was stunned when the news filtered through on June 18 that he had passed away while in Spain. Incredibly, he stood as the most prolific hurler on the intercounty scene, averaging over 10 points a game during an outstanding playing career, and his loss will be felt for years to come. On the club scene, Éire Óg Carrickmore retained the Benburb Cup with a convincing victory over Naomh Colum Cille.
3 Errigal Ciaran are back
ERRIGAL Ciaran claimed the O’Neill Cup this season and deservedly so, stringing together a series of impressive performances en route to overcoming their old rivals Carrickmore in the final. They suffered some bruising defeats in recent seasons, but they tightened up their defence considerably and the Canavan brothers Ruairi and Darragh made hay up front. Can they become the first team since Carmen in the mid-noughties to retain their title in the notoriously competitive world of Tyrone Club Football? It’s a big ask but they’re as well placed as any side in recent years. In Ulster, they started strongly against Malachy O’Rourke’s Glen but the concession of three goals proved fatal in the final reckoning.
4 Glory for the U-20s
WHAT a season for the Tyrone U-20s. They played some magnificent football in Carrick-on-Shannon to claim the All-Ireland title with a five-point victory over Kildare – a margin of victory that didn’t really reflect their overall superiority on the day. Ruairi Canavan was their star performer throughout the championship (his outrageous sideline kick late in the Ulster final against Cavan went viral afterwards) and he picked up the U-20 Footballer of the Year award. But this was no one-man show – Michael McGleenan, Seanie O’Donnell, Conor Cush, Steve Donaghy, James Donaghy and Ciaran Bogue were just some of the lads who look like they could get a chance with the Tyrone Senior team in years to come. The Tyrone minors also had a good season, retaining their Ulster title, but they fell narrowly short in a claustrophobic All-Ireland semi-final clash against Kerry.
5 An Ulster final to remember
PERSONALLY, one of the highlights for me this season was Stewartstown’s victory over Drumlane in the Ulster Junior Championship final. They overcame a number of setbacks midway through the game but eventually emerged triumphant on penalties against a gallant Drumlane side. For drama and unpredictability, it was a brilliant game of football and a testament to the character and ability of both teams. Galbally also blazed a trail in Ulster under management duo Joe McMahon and Paddy Crozier, claiming the title with a victory over Corduff. In doing so, they achieved redemption for a disappointing Ulster final defeat to Magheracloone, another Monaghan outfit, four years ago.