It doesn’t take long to get the impression from Kieran McGeary that Tyrone had broken into their own injured locker to finally see Donegal at Brewster Park on Sunday.
The victory helped them advance to an Ulster final for the first time in four years. For McGeary, Tyrone has died wondering too many times lately.
“I’m buzzing to say the least,” he said. “We wanted to be on the safe side of that one – too many times we haven’t been on the safe side so it’s amazing to finally get there and cross the finish line.
“It was a lot of work! We were pushed to the limits there – we were a man down, a man up… but we held on and that’s what hard work can do. .
While the past few years have been frustrating, there is pain in much more recent memory. They only have to go back a few weeks for an experience of retribution at Kerry’s hands. They conceded six goals that day and looked like a team that would have significant problems exiting the Mickey Harte era.
“Look, there were a lot of people who looked into Kerry’s loss, and there is no doubt that it was embarrassing that day to wear the jersey and be a part of such a loss,” he said. McGeary said.
“But we tried things that day that didn’t work and that doesn’t mean they won’t work anymore. Kerry is an exceptional team and we were up against it. But I think we are starting to show that we are putting things in place and hopefully we will do a job the next day.
Can such a result make a team?
“It can, it can absolutely. It shows what character you have and what level you’re sitting at and I guess it also gives you a good kick in the back sometimes. So look, we’re excited to be in the final and that’s where we are.
McGeary delivered a brilliant performance on Sunday. At home in many roles, he scored three points in the first half against Donegal. He ended the game on the sidelines after picking up a black card late, which evened the numbers after Michael Murphy’s sacking.
“There were a lot of factors in the game – it was tight, they missed the penalty, we got a black card, Murphy was sent off. It was crazy but you don’t really have time to think too much about these things, you just have to react right away.
“When you play that long and you see guys like boys come onto the pitch, it gives you another boost. They’re buzzing to get along and you saw the impact they had, Tiernan McCann three-pointers, Conor McKenna fielding kick-outs, that’s what you need from your bench. That’s what the benches have been doing in recent years, it’s not a 15-a-side game anymore so I’m delighted.
“The second half put me there a bit with the sun, you see when you stop you lose your legs and energy but I guess that was to be expected. I haven’t seen him yet. but i thought i was miserable with a black card i had nowhere to go really but look, luckily we were already a standing man. final.
It was also the second thriller the Ulster SFC delivered in 24 hours after Monaghan and Armagh produced their own mini-epic.
“Ulster football, what was ‘fuck football’ at one time? Both Ulster games were fantastic, both semi-finals, if you watched the game yesterday or today but that’s what it is, it should be games to one, two, three points, that shouldn’t be mind-blowing games, it was exciting to play, exciting to be a part of and I’m sure it was exciting to watch.
Monaghan will wait for the final, with the match to be moved to Croke Park to allow as many people as possible to attend.
“You know what I didn’t even know was confirmed, but ask any player and they’ll tell you, they want to play Croke Park, whether it’s wet and windy or dry and sunny, they want still play in Croke Park.
“This is where you want to be and if this is where it is, this is where it is, we’ll play it anywhere.”