‘It’s hard to explain, hard to describe. This is something you dream of when you’re a young kid.’
THERE WAS A marked contrast in the post-match reactions to All-Ireland semi-final successes.
For Dublin it was routine business on Saturday as they progressed to a sixth decider in eight years.
For Tyrone there was a wild joy generated by the final whistle yesterday, that 10-year wait for qualification for a September showdown having ended.
The context was provided by the youngsters in their ranks who raided their memory banks for the recollection of the previous great Tyrone All-Ireland final days.
“10 years after the last time, I was 10 back then so I was only a cub,” recalled young defender Michael McKernan.
“I was up in the Upper Hogan with me oul boy. I just remember trying to get down whenever they won, and getting lost running down!
“Ach well, I’d remember it more than I would in ’03 and ’05, but I remember where I was in ’03 when they first won it. I was in my auntie’s house in Eglish. I was five. I wasn’t allowed to go, I couldn’t get a ticket because I was so young!”
For Cathal McShane, there was a specific stalwart from the team who is imprinted in his mind.
“I remember watching Dooher running down the wing, taking two or three tackles, pinging it over the bar. It’s crazy.
“I went to primary school in Donemana parish, it was Clann na nGael, and Stephen [O’Neill] and Brian were always in my school.
“I always looked up to them, they were idols for me, and now to get the chance to go out and do what they did, it’s unbelievable.
“I always remember saying it would be great to get to an All-Ireland final and follow in those boys’ footsteps. You have boys in my own club, Decky McCrossan, another role model who I always looked up to when I was young and Brendy Boggs played with Owen Roe and played with Tyrone.
“They’re the people you looked up to and you want to pull on that jersey and run out on the big days.”
McKernan’s rise has been rapid this summer. He came on as a substitute in the opening Ulster loss to Monaghan, netting late on, before cementing a place in the Tyrone rearguard since then.
Tyrone’s Michael McKernan and Ronan O’Neill celebrate after their win over Monaghan.
Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO
“I was in the U21s last year and after that ended, I didn’t know if I’d play for Tyrone again.
“I just played for the club and thankfully got the chance with the club seniors, and Mickey must have seen me.
“The McKenna Cup, that was the first real chance and he had me in the league panel, so I had the league to impress in and try to make the championship panel and thankfully I did that.
“At the start of the year when you’re coming in having watched those boys win Ulsters last year and the year before, but this was always the benchmark.
“I was watching them against Dublin in the semi-final, and unfortunately they didn’t get over it. I was watching them against Kerry (in 2015) and thankfully I was there this year to help them along.”
Success propels Tyrone into an All-Ireland showdown with Dublin on 2 September, a chance to sample the showpiece day in Gaelic football.
Tyrone manager Mickey Harte celebrates at the final whistle with Cathal McShane.
Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO
“It’s hard to explain, hard to describe,” said McShane.
“This is something you dream of when you’re a young kid. I (was) coming down here watching Tyrone when I was 10/11 years of age and it’s just something that sticks in your mind that you want to do.
“You set a target and I always said I’d love to get on to Croke Park, never mind an All-Ireland final, and now it’s happened.”
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