Joe McMahon praised Tyrone’s football panel for his unity in overcoming the many obstacles presented to them on their way to All-Ireland success against Mayo.
McMahon entered Tyrone’s backstage squad ahead of the 2021 season, having previously been involved with Ryan McMenamin’s Fermanagh. What followed was another unconventional season as Covid-19 disrupted the traditional GAA schedule again, with the Level 5 lockdown in the Republic delaying the resumption of group training for teams until May. .
However, the late championship finally shifted and Tyrone presented themselves in Ulster as a team that had not taken their eyes off their goal during the long delay felt by all the teams.
They passed Cavan and Donegal before defeating Monaghan in a decisive Anglo-Celtic match held at Croke Park to accommodate a larger audience.
It was during the preparation for this match that the Tyrone panel members began to feel the pinch, many of the Covid-19 contractors. It was a disruptive factor that surfaced again ahead of the semi-final against Kerry – this time to a more overwhelming extent.
McMahon recalled the impact of the virus on the playing team and praised the larger panel for the way they kept things together and kept the Tyrone train rolling.
He said: “The preparation for the Monaghan game, when there were players dropping out here and there, you were really like, ‘This is going to be a test for the panel.
“And the point is, it was the players on the outskirts of the squad who were the ones wearing the thing those weeks.”
Having seen their semi-final with Kerry initially postponed for six days, that extension was not enough as the team were exhausted due to the severity of the virus outbreak.
Tyrone GAA then became embroiled in a deadlock with the GAA hierarchy as they sought a new postponement to give recovering players enough time to get back into shape after contracting Covid-19.
Their request was initially denied, but after issuing a response saying they would have to concede the game if a further postponement was not granted, the GAA relented and pushed the semi-final for another week.
And McMahon described the monstrous efforts the returning players put into their preparations for what has become a semi-final that has caught the attention of the nation.
He continued: “When we were getting ready for Kerry’s game you had boys coming back and at all times the welfare of the players was first and foremost.
“So you would have had sessions and drills where the players would go out for a few minutes and go and chat with the medical staff who were watching everything very closely.
“That’s what we insisted on over and over with them.
“If a man needs to get out of a session, there is no pressure to continue.
“We left it to the players and the medics throughout the process.
“That’s when the whole panel really kicked in because you can’t really imagine what it must have been like for those players coming back from Covid.
“It was an effort on everyone’s part to get back to a place where we could compete.”