Last Sunday, i had the privilege of seeing Tyrone silence all their detractors and critics and be crowned All-Ireland Champions. It wasn't an easy journey, there were upsets along the way. In total, Tyrone had to play nine games to get to the final - replays against Dublin and Cavan, and who could forget the controversial Ulster final replay against Armagh?- but in the end it was worth it. Having followed the team to every game this year, it was immensely satisfying to see Brian Dooher climb the steps of the Hogan Stand and lift the Sam Maguire cup at 5:00 on Sunday evening.
It was a fantastic game, both teams played brilliantly, and it was a bit of an auspicious start for Tyrone, with Kerry scoring two points in under three minutes without reply. The Gooch was on form. Then, two great points from Ryan Mellon put the teams level. It looked like Tyrone were getting back in the game, and then came the pass from Colm 'Gooch' Cooper to Dara O' Cinneide giving him a shot at goals, a shot he took and took well.
But Tyrone wouldn't give up, and almost immediately Owen 'Mugsy' Mulligan scored a point. It was point for point for a while until Tyrone finally got the upper hand with captain Brian Dooher scoring the equalising point and fantastic shots from Steven O'Neill and particularly Brian Mc Guigan. But it wasn't until added time and a fantastic pass from Philip Jordan to Owen Mulligan, that the Tyrone supporters got really excited. While Mugsy held onto the ball, racing through the defence came God himself, Peter Canavan, to relieve Mugsy of the ball and slot it beautifully into the back of Murphy's net. The crowd erupted, there was cheering and screaming. It was fantastic. It was also the first time this season Murphy had conceeded but he can be forgiven for doing so, it was a wee cracker! At half time Tyrone were three points ahead 1-8 to Kerry's 1-5.
The second half Tyrone dominated, but Kerry came right back in it with a goal by Tomás O' Sé. Connor Gormley had originally blocked down a shot at goals and was unfortunate not to get up in time to stop O' Sé's, but the power behind his shot would have been hard to stop in any case! The goal put just a point between the teams, but that was the closest Kerry would get to catching up with Tyrone again. Tyrone kept firing them over the bar, with the final one coming from fantastic defender Philip Jordan, to end up winning by three points. Final score Kerry 2-10, Tryone 1-16.
It was an emotional moment for all involved - the players, the management team and all the supporters. There seemed to be a flood of red and white on the pitch at Croke Park to watch Brian Dooher raised that cup. They've dedicated this All-Ireland to former captain Cormac Mc Anallen, who suddenly died in March 2004 from a rare heart condition. His spirit was evident that afternoon in the players and in the supporters. They'll all make sure he'll never be forgotten. Neither will Paul Mc Girr, the young player who died while playing football for the minor team so many of the present senior team were on. Emotions were running high, and many supporters seemed unwilling to leave the pitch.
The team arrived back in County Tyrone on Monday night to rapturous applause and cheers from thousands of supporters and fans. It was obvious the players were tired but appreciated the effort the people of the county had made. There was an added tinge of saddness with Peter Canavan announcing his retirement from inter-county football, and mand nobody else in the future could surely emulate.
But, as manager Mickey Harte said, this is an exceptional team, and let nobody else tell you differently. Hopefully, Tyrone have silenced their critics once and for all.