Wylie hoping to lay some ghosts to rest

By Niall McCoy

RYAN Wylie is a self-confessed sports nut and would watch two ants crawling up the wall if they were in competition with each other.

With that in mind, the Olympics would have been the perfect wind down entertainment for the Monaghan captain ahead of Saturday’s Ulster final with Tyrone in Croke Park.

However, the eight-hour time difference means that the Tokyo Games are essentially off limits. Setting an alarm for the middle of the night was fine when he was a gasson, but in Gaelic football sleep is as important as conditioning nowadays and the Ballybay defender needs to prepare as perfectly as possible ahead of this weekend’s highly-anticipated encounter.

“The aul time zone isn’t doing me any favours,” he said of the Olympics.

“I remember in 2008 getting up to watch one of Michael Phelps’s races in the middle of the night. I watched a bit of the triathlon there, I suppose you think you’re fit until you see those guys going at it.

“It’s good viewing. Anything live on TV I’ll watch it.”

The 27-year-old is aiming to achieve something special this weekend. If Séamus McEnaney’s side prevail then he will become the first Monaghan man to lift a cup at Croke Park since teammate Conor McManus hoisted aloft the Division Two trophy in 2014.

If Wylie is to climb the steps of the Hogan Stand in triumph, it’ll not only be a 17th provincial title for the Oriel county but it would also lay some Red Hand ghosts to rest at the Dublin venue.

The player was sat amongst the substitutes as Tyrone won their 2013 All-Ireland quarter-final clash, but he was a starter in the 2015 All-Ireland quarter-final loss and 2018 All-Ireland semi-final defeat at the famous venue.

“Every game with Tyrone is different from the others,” said Wylie.

“We’ve played them a lot over the last couple of years, both of us have been in Division One, both of us have come against each other in championship matches.

“I think they’re probably the same as us, there’s not really much that we don’t know about each other at this stage.

“I can’t say exactly what way the game will be but they’re normally tight and tense affairs and I’m sure it’ll be something similar this weekend.”

Wylie also dismissed suggestions that the 2021 version is the best to take on Tyrone at Croke Park over the last decade.

“In 2013 we won our first Ulster Championship in 20-odd years, in 2015 another Ulster Championship. They were two great teams.

“In 2018 it was the first time we got past the All-Ireland quarter-final mark so you’d probably be doing those teams a disservice.

“We have a completely fresh team and we were lucky enough to get to the final. It’s probably a very similar team that played against Cavan last year and we probably weren’t getting the best headlines after that.

“As the saying goes ‘you’re only a foot away from a pat on the back and a kick in the arse.’”

While in 2013, Ryan watched older brother Drew head into battle against Tyrone, it will be the opposite this weekend. Even though Drew is struggling for minutes, the Monaghan captain said that his input has been invaluable.

“Drew was unlucky. We had a challenge match just before the National League and he was going well but he was unfortunate to pull up with a hamstring injury.

“It’s just one of those things. It took him a while to get back fit and now that he is back fully fit we have won a couple of games and it’s hard to change things up.

“I know rightly he is chomping at the bit. His experience is vital around the group.

“You probably don’t realise the value of some of these players around the group until they’re gone. Even at half time in games a few of his thoughts, stuff like that.”

Monaghan head into the game with a dark cloud still hanging over the county following the tragic death of u-20 captain Brendan Óg Ó Dufaigh.

His u-20 teammates will try and pick themselves up for Friday’s Ulster final against Down at the Athletic Grounds with the seniors hoping to make it a double at Croke Park on Saturday.

Many of the panel were friendly with ‘Ógie’, and Wylie said that he hopes that they have added some comfort in the family’s time of suffering.

“The following few days were difficult. As a group we gathered, went to the house on Tuesday night to lend our support to the family. It just really shows the power of the GAA in such times, something so small, it only took an hour out of our time but it can mean so much to people when they are at their lowest ebb.

“As a group there is nothing we can really do to replace the hurt the family is feeling. Sometimes small things, even just being at the funeral can help.

“I’d like to give a special mention to the Down u-20s and I know there were some Donegal u-20s at the funeral as well. Only small gestures like that, it means a lot.

“I know there are a couple of members of our squad who would have played with ‘Ógie’ the whole way up. Unfortunately I wouldn’t have known him as well as the others so just being there for those younger lads, if they want to talk to you, they mightn’t want to talk to you but to find that balance, try not to push them, just to make them aware that if they want a phone call.

“I can’t imagine how some of them feel, to be on a team bus with him and then, 20 minutes later, for such an event to happen. It’s unimaginable.

“If I could do anything for that younger generation, I’ll be there for them.”

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