2023 review: Tyrone left with plenty to ponder

A look back on some of the Tyrone memories of 2023….

1 Kerry put a spanner in the works

IT looked like Feargal Logan and Brian Dooher’s Tyrone team were coming good at the right time. After surviving a late scare against Westmeath in the All-Ireland group stages, they produced a performance of real panache and energy away to Donegal in a preliminary round quarter-final encounter. That set up a mouth-watering last-eight meeting with Kerry but it all went to pot on a day to forget for the Red Hands. It wasn’t all doom and gloom, however, as a few young players like Ruairi Canavan, Joe Oguz, Cormac Quinn and newcomer Seanie O’Donnell played very well at various stages of their championship campaign. They diced with danger in the league but ultimately did enough to stay in Division One for another year. Feargal Logan and Brian Dooher have been handed a new three-year contract and it’ll be interesting to see whether they can get the team back to 2021 levels but it’s certainly not going to be easy.

2 Trillick bag a league and championship double

AT the outset of this year’s senior championship, few would have predicted that Trillick would end up on the winners podium on county final day, especially without the loss of former Tyrone captain Mattie Donnelly to injury. But they got better and better with every game and were deserving victors over holders Errigal Ciaran in a memorable county final. They gave the Ulster Championship a good rattle and were a matter of seconds away from what would have been a magical win over Scotstown in the semi-finals, eventually losing out in extra-time. Jody Gormley’s side didn’t drop their heads and a few weeks ago ended their season on a high note, retaining their Division One title with victory over Carrickmore.

3 Rony calls it a day

WHOEVER steps in for recently retired Tyrone stalwart Ronan McNamee next year certainly has large boots to fill. Ronan was one of the finest full-backs of his generation and gave absolutely everything for the Red Hand cause every day he stepped onto the pitch. He won an All-Star in 2019 and deservedly so, but the undoubted highlight of his intercounty career was the significant role he played in Tyrone’s surge to All-Ireland glory in 2021. He was hugely well-respected around the country and the tributes came pouring in when it emerged he was hanging up the boots at the tail-end of October.

4 The hurlers do themselves proud

IT would have been understandable if the Tyrone hurlers didn’t do much of note this year after the tragic loss of Damian Casey, the finest hurler the county has ever produced. Not only was he an unbelievable scorer-getter with the stats to prove it, but he was the team’s spiritual leader and we were all shocked when news broke of his death in June 2022. The rest of the team bandied together, however, and did incredibly well in hugely difficult circumstances, finishing mid-table in Division 2B and managing to stay afloat in their historic first Christy Ring Cup campaign. On the club front, Omagh won the Junior title while Éire Óg, Carrickmore retained the Benburb Cup before falling short in the Ulster Intermediate final against Setanta.

5 Fintona end their long, long wait

FINTONA Pearses came up trumps in the Ulster Junior Championship final in a gripping match with Drumragh (who bounced back via the promotion play-offs). It was Fintona’s second ever Junior title and their first in 48 years so it really was a marvellous achievement for Martin Greene and his team and they’ll relish the prospect of testing themselves at Intermediate level next year. Elsewhere, Cookstown claimed the Division Three league title, Pomeroy claimed the Tyrone Intermediate title and Clonoe surged to league honours in Division Two.

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