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new kings My team of the year and why 'We Are One' sums up the Red Hands' victorious gameplan

The Kerry County Board's treatment of Peter Keane and his management team has been most un-Kerry-like

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Tyrone players celebrate celebrate their All-Ireland victory. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Tyrone players celebrate celebrate their All-Ireland victory. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Tyrone players celebrate celebrate their All-Ireland victory. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Simple slogans are often the most catchy, effective and powerful, you know the type – ‘Impossible Is Nothing’, ‘Just Do It’, ‘Yes We Can’, and maybe even ‘I’m Lovin’ It’!

Shortly after arriving off their team buses at Croke Park last Saturday, the Tyrone footballers stretched their legs around the sidelines of the pitch – the backs of their tops had their own three-word tagline – ‘We Are One’’, a simple slogan expressing a clear and potent message.

Tyrone are deserving All-Ireland champions and they did it the hard way, improving every step of the way with victories over Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan – before culminating with Croke Park wins over Kerry and Mayo.

Joint-managers Feargal Logan and Brian Dooher warrant massive credit for the job they did, marrying the county’s defensive DNA to a clever attacking game-plan. They also brought the block-down back into fashion! How many last-ditch interventions did Tyrone players make in the last two games of their journey to All-Ireland glory?

By the end of the championship, their physical conditioning looked the best in the business. Peter Donnelly has done a top job with the players.

On their succession to the throne, following the reign of Mickey Harte, Logan and Dooher set about uniting the county and panel and healing any divisions that may have existed, with some players not making themselves available for inter-county selection.

They arrived at GAA HQ with a question mark over their ability to score goals after raising just one green flag during their successful three-game Ulster campaign – and then in two games in Croker, against Kerry and Mayo, they scored five.

The adversity of their Covid situation was turned into a positive. Tyrone used the negative reaction from some quarters, and being put into the spotlight, to unite the panel and management.

Even when Kerry acquiesced to Croke Park’s decision to delay and then further delay their semi-final, there were some in Tyrone who said the Kingdom had only done so as they were so confident of making the final they didn’t want to go in cold.

In advance of the final against Mayo, the 31-versus-one siege mentality went into overdrive – so there were many layers to their ‘We Are One’ approach.

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Tyrone's joint-managers Brian Dooher and Feargal Logan

Tyrone's joint-managers Brian Dooher and Feargal Logan

Tyrone's joint-managers Brian Dooher and Feargal Logan

The early indications are that their fourth All-Ireland has whetted the appetite for more.

“I still don’t believe we’re as good as we can be. I think we’re operating at 60-70pc. We made a lot of mistakes throughout the Kerry game and today,” said Conor McKenna in the immediate aftermath of their victory over Mayo.

“But we’ve only been a year with the new management and we still haven’t probably clicked fully. So there’s a lot more improvement to come from us. That’s really the goal now.”

Tyrone will be driven next year to win back-to-back titles for the first time in their county’s history – and become the first Ulster county to defend Sam since Down in 1961.

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Their victory will also inspire other counties in their province, as several others in that bear pit of a competition will fancy their chances of toppling them next summer.

But where now for the counties most immediate in their rear-view mirror this summer – Mayo, Kerry and Dublin?

Mayo, God help us! Mayo, God help them, more like!

A lot of the sliding-door moments went against Mayo in the final, especially Ryan O’Donoghue’s penalty miss, plus several other good potential goalscoring situations.

Cillian O’Connor will be back next year and hope springs eternal in Mayo, as we know. They are a resilient bunch, but there was something about this most recent All-Ireland final heartbreak that seemed to striker deeper with the players on the final whistle.

James Horan will re-evaluate once again and, perhaps, look to tweak their style. When your best players in terms of an offensive game are attack-minded defenders, you leave yourself vulnerable to fatigue and the counter-attack. Tyrone exploited this shortcoming.

While many of Horan’s squad are young and don’t carry the mental baggage of some of those who have gone before, they have now lost two deciders in a row – and you have to wonder will the weight of history now begin to burden them that little bit more.

Something seems to be stirring down in the Kingdom.

The statement released by the Kerry County Board, regarding the status of their senior football manager, lacked respect for Peter Keane and his management team.

It was most un-Kerry-like and is akin to washing your dirty linen in public.

It is mind-blowing that a meeting behind the scenes did not take place with Keane to discuss his future.

Keane’s term might be up, and three years without an All-Ireland success means the vultures are circling. He must now wonder if his position is viable, in terms of looking to extend his tenure.

From the outside, the process looks intended to force Keane to walk. The Kerry chairman, Tim Murphy, has put himself firmly in the spotlight.

The other big question is whether Keane has the full backing of the dressing-room? For me, there are too many winds blowing against him.

Jack O’Connor will presumably throw his hat in the ring and Donie Buckley could be back as a coach/selector once again, following his departure from Keane’s coaching team.

Dublin manager Dessie Farrell will have spent a lot of time and no doubt is still wondering what he needs to do to re-energise his panel for next year.

The Dubs will be contenders again next year, but they have a few issues to iron out.

Can Paul Mannion and/or Jack McCaffrey be convinced to return to the fold?

Farrell also needs to carry out some surgery to the back end of his panel, and opportunity knocks in the current club championship for new blood to make a statement – there were some encouraging displays in last weekend’s first round of games.

The Dublin forward unit has become too conservative in terms of their attacking plan and they need to start playing with more directness and pace – it can be risky at times, but without some element of risk, you won’t prosper.

There was greater variety, sophistication, support play and hard running to Dublin’s forward play in the not-too-distant past – they need to rediscover their mojo. Maybe Farrell has to consider making changes or additions to his coaching/backroom team – would Jason Sherlock and/or Declan Darcy take a call?

Anachronistic All-Star process doesn’t fit the modern game

The All-Star system is a long time in existence and has served our games and players well over the decades.

However, particularly in the modern era, they are somewhat anachronistic – not fully fit for purpose as they are currently constituted.

The game now is so fluid it has moved on a long time from the formation of goalkeeper, six defenders, two midfielders, and six forwards – Tyrone’s flexibility and interchangeability this year was just the latest manifestation.

The role of the impact sub is so important that just because a player is not a regular starter does not rule them out of consideration in a Team of the Year selection.

Tyrone’s Cathal McShane is certainly a ‘game finisher’ in every extent and he made very telling contributions in a lot of his county’s journey to All-Ireland glory – including scoring key goals in both the All-Ireland semi-final and decider.

That said, I haven’t included him in my selections here where eight of his county men, three from Mayo and two each from Dublin and Kerry get the nod.

MY TEAM OF THE YEAR

Niall Morgan (Tyrone); Michael Fitzsimons (Dublin), Lee Keegan (Mayo), Pádraig Hampsey (Tyrone); Niall Sludden (Tyrone), Kieran McGeary (Tyrone), Peter Harte (Tyrone); Matthew Ruane (Mayo), Conn Kilpatrick (Tyrone); Ciarán Kilkenny (Dublin), Paudie Clifford (Kerry), Conor Meyler (Tyrone); Ryan O’Donoghue (Mayo), David Clifford (Kerry), Darren McCurry (Tyrone)

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