History is made through small margins and Tyrone will feel themselves hard done by as they watch Mayo compete in the All-Ireland final late next month. Leading by a point at the halfway stage of their semi-final with Mayo, Tyrone conceded that controversial penalty that swung the game in their opponents’ favour. Mickey Harte’s men never reclaimed the lead.
Instead, Mayo advanced with a 1-16 0-13 victory and left the Tyrone players flat out on the Croke Park soil. Thankfully, there are positives to their defeat and people who follow the GAA odds know it.
For Tyrone may have fallen at the semis hurdle this year but there is certainly more to come from this developing side that some argue are unlucky not to be contesting their first All-Ireland final since 2008.
Harte’s troops went into their semi as slight underdogs but following a two-point victory over Monaghan in the quarters many fans knew the odds didn’t reflect their chances. Sadly, for Tyrone supporters, when they needed a man to step up and take the game to Mayo no one surfaced – as three leaders suffered injuries to scupper their chances. Joe McMahon was given free role as sweeper without much pressure from the Mayo pack, yet the 30-year-old couldn’t impress on the game and came off injured on 44 minutes.
Having lost further experienced heads, Peter Harte and Stephen O’Neill, during the game, Tyrone were left with a weakened side that could neither outrun nor outthink their opposition. Their offensive play was reduced to wild forays forward with a rationale somewhere between a rabbit in the headlights and a child at an aisle.
Yet the experience of playing in an All-Ireland semi will help the team next season. Few pundits on Betfair expected Tyrone to make the final and they would be severe underdogs against Kerry or Dublin at any rate. This run should be seen as a progressive step towards a title for Harte and his men and not the end of the road. They were unlucky not to top the league this season and make the All-Ireland final and now have a benchmark from which to better themselves.