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fired-up ‘If you see a fire, you put it out – that’s our responsibility’ says Tyrone powerhouse Kieran McGeary

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Kieran McGeary shows his delight after the All-Ireland semi-final win against Kerry. Photo: Sportsfile

Kieran McGeary shows his delight after the All-Ireland semi-final win against Kerry. Photo: Sportsfile

Kieran McGeary shows his delight after the All-Ireland semi-final win against Kerry. Photo: Sportsfile

It would be easy for Kieran McGeary to run away with himself given his sensational form with Tyrone this season, but individual accolades that may come his way later this year are far from his thought process heading into Saturday’s All-Ireland SFC final.

The all-action Red Hand defender is high on the Footballer of the Year shortlist with Sam Maguire’s destination likely to decide the winner, but he won’t be wasting too much time thinking about that.

“I heard that the other day, someone said it to me. Genuinely speaking, if it comes 100 per cent fantastic – but it won’t distract me from my game. I don’t look into it at all, I don’t speak about it at all,” McGeary says matter-of-factly.

“You can get very easily carried away and two weeks down the line I don’t want to be sitting at the kitchen table, thinking where was my head at? When you’re winning, football’s good. Anything else that comes on top of that is a bonus.

“That’s the way I’ve always looked at it. Winning’s the main priority. If you do well enough to get anything extra, great – but there’s a lot of men could have got awards the last day, I’ve been fortunate.”

Questions about the Pomeroy Plunkett’s clubman hitting the prime of his playing days are answered with the caveat that “there’s nothing majorly won yet and if ye are chatting to me in two weeks’ time, hopefully I’ll be able to be a bit more honest then”.

The statistics don’t lie, though, and his man-of-the-match display in their epic All-Ireland semi-final defeat of Kerry shows why he is being touted as one of the game’s finest right now – with a staggering 40 possessions and, amazingly, no unforced errors.

McGeary, who is a PE and geography teacher in Holy Trinity, Cookstown as well as co-owner of The Rusty Keg Bar and Restaurant in his local village, also won six turnovers and earned six frees in a swashbuckling display that saw him feature everywhere in Croke Park at some stage.

McGeary regularly mentions being “off the cuff” as a personal trait – like his “They said we wouldn’t, they said we couldn’t, I’ll tell you what, we did” speech in the wake of the Kerry victory – but he insists that he doesn’t have the freedom in his role on the pitch that many suggest.

“Ach no, everyone has a job to do. Big or small. You’ll hear commentators talking about it. If you see a fire, put it out. Every player has that responsibility – see a fire, put it out,” he reveals.

“It might sometimes look like we’re doing what we wish, but everybody has a role and responsibility.”

The Tyrone vice-captain, who also skippered the Red Hand to All-Ireland U-21 success in 2015 under joint-bosses Brian Dooher and Feargal Logan, isn’t one for setting personal goals before games as he prefers the spontaneity of “living and playing in the moment”.

“I’m honestly not big on that. Collectively, we have targets. Like, every team has targets. But, individually, I’m not a big person to look into individual targets. I’m more off the cuff, live in the moment, make the best decision for the team type thing,” he says.

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“Work hard. I suppose that’s just driven from our coaching and our management. I’ve been in the team a few years and after every season there’s always a couple of nights you’d be thinking, ‘God, I should have done better there. I could have done this. Next year, I’ll definitely do that’.

“When you reflect enough on it when you’re sitting at home during the good time of the season, where you wish you were playing, that’s where you figure out what you should be doing for next year.”

Learning from mistakes is something which McGeary hopes Tyrone can do on Saturday against Mayo when they bid to exorcise the demons of their comprehensive six-point All-Ireland final defeat to Dublin three years ago.

“It does take a long time to get over because of the effort you’ve put in for the full year and the rest of the team and all the sacrifices that everybody has made. It eventually hits home after.

“You get everyone saying, ‘unlucky’, after the last time which cushions you for a while, but it soon hits home that you got beaten in an All-Ireland final and that’s not nice at all, so it’s not. We didn’t do the business that day.

“We were in a good position in the early stages of that game and it annoys you when you start thinking about it because you never want to lose finals, but somebody has to lose them.

“Preparation was fantastic back then and this time it will be the exact same, looking to leave no stone unturned. Everything will be detailed and we’ll hopefully be ready to rock.”

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