TIERNAN McCann was ready to go. Injury-free for months, the fittest in a few years, after a good club campaign in 2020. And then came Conor McKenna.
“Typically I was uninjured for three or four months prior to the first week and I think Conor McKenna is still learning how to tackle the hamstring the Irish way for a couple of weeks.”
Always committed, McCann is in a good mood after his half-hour performance for Tyrone at the weekend, even if it was cut in stoppage time by a rather textbook-like black card.
He had dragged Kieran Hughes onto the lawn to prematurely stop Monaghan’s pursuit of an equalizer, but he was 30 seconds early.
His punishment was pretty obvious and his way back to the bench was short, but all of the implementation of the new rules around cynicism is a path that football doesn’t think is necessary.
“It’s a little gray. I don’t know if they’ll keep it. It’s not always black and white, ”said McCann of the rule for cynical fouls that deny a chance to score.
“I don’t think they have to change much, we have a good game that is in the right place. Maybe just leave it alone for a while and see how it develops. “
Are you frustrated by it?
“Aye, and I think a little confused too. It’s not very black and white. We had Sean Hurson speaking to us before one of our internal games and he was with us for 45 minutes, so many questions were asked.
“It’s very difficult for referees, linesmen, coaches, players and fans and you in the media. It’s very difficult to see if it stays in – hopefully not, ”he smiles as the music inside is turned up a bit.
It mistakenly feels like McCann was gone. His grip on the number five jersey has been loosened, but by no means removed.
When he’s in full flight there is still no winger in Ireland who likes to hunt
The Killyclogher man completed every 210 minutes after the lockdown for his county last winter, starting and finishing their league games against Donegal and Mayo as well as their championship outcome for the Tír Chonaill men.
But then playing in the Donegal League marked the first time he had finished a game in well over a year, going back to the demolition of Antrim in the first round at Ulster in 2019.
That was the summer that loosened his grip. He missed two games due to suspension, another two due to injury and only played the last 13 minutes off the bench when they were eliminated by Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-finals.
Conor McKenna may have slowed its start into 2021, but McCann is feeling good.
“I felt last year, with the first lockdown, I really got myself in really good shape, the happiest in a couple of years and I felt like I had a really good club campaign.
“Of course we only had two or three district games to show this off and they were played in bad weather in November.
“I’m in a really good place now, I feel like my experience is there. I’m one of the older players in the group now, I feel ready to go and in better shape than ever. It’s all positive. “
Everyone on the outside has an opinion on the new Tyrone. They try different things, different men, different approaches. Some visible, some invisible.
The biggest change Tiernan McCann has noticed isn’t on match days at Healy Park, but on the nights Tyrone trains in Garvaghey.
“From an organizational point of view, there are just a lot more people involved. With two men at the head [Feargal Logan and Brian Dooher], three or four different coaches, a few doctors and nutritionists – when it comes to the body, there are many more people who all offer their expertise.
“The fact that we now have the Performance Hub in Garvaghey is the main difference. It’s still football, we still go to Garvaghy, it’s still a lot of the same faces driving this thing forward. I suppose we’ll see more differences as the year progresses. “
The Performance Hub he is referring to is the county’s new six-figure fitness studio, where the walls roar: “Championships are won here”.
It is not yet possible to say whether the tactical change in football will more or less challenge the players. The hamstring disease epidemic seems to be due to the short enema rather than to increased physiological stress.
We are always told that players enjoy football more when it is open. Do they
“Good question. You would need a series of games to really analyze this.
“Most defenders would probably admit that they don’t like an isolated room and 40 yards, mark a kick forward and a speedster that will take you every time.
“It wasn’t the case a few years ago, you would have had a low block [mass numbers] back.
“People want to go out and play football. I know it sounds easy, but soccer means kicking the ball. The more kick passes, the more points we see, the more players will enjoy Gaelic football.
“It probably took a couple of years, but the curve is now changing. We are now seeing a lot of negative press with hurling. We don’t need all these negative rules to change football, I think it will evolve on its own.
“It’s definitely in a better place.
“There’s definitely … holistic, not just with Tyrone, to beat the top teams – Dublin or the teams that challenged the last few years, Kerry, Mayo – they took an approach where you have to beat them.
“You have to break the defense, maybe a plus, and you really have to try to win the game, try to get more points than the other team.
“That sounds so simple, but that’s really the template at the moment. There has been a shift in most of the teams. Most of the newspapers and media have praised Ulster football for the past few weeks for taking this route, which is refreshing for once.
“That would be the main shift. Tactically, most teams play at least four forwards.
“They probably still have 10 and 12 working but they are trying to outperform the other team and kick through the lines in 1v1s. It also helps that we had a good weather period and that the games are played in the summer.
“Traditionally, the National League and the McKenna Cup are played under terrible conditions. That would be the most important shift. “
And he smiles that Chelsea are 1-0 against Man City, the lesser of the two evils on the way to the Champions League triumph in a week in which he was happy to have beaten Man United in the Europa League final against Villareal to see.
A smiling Tiernan McCann is a good thing for Tyrone Football.