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red grand ‘There were definitely dark and frustrating days, but you just have to keep going’ – Tyrone's Cathal McShane


2021 Mo Bro ambassador Cathal McShane

2021 Mo Bro ambassador Cathal McShane

2021 Mo Bro ambassador Cathal McShane

THEY say you have to experience the bad days to appreciate the good ones and there were few more deserving All-Ireland SFC winners than Tyrone star Cathal McShane after he was put through the wringer with a litany of injuries.

McShane sent out a tweet in August of last year which showed him lying in a hospital bed after another surgery to correct an ankle problem picked up six months previous as 2020 turned into a write-off.

“Behind every set back is an opportunity. 2020 has been a frustrating year for sure, however always staying positive! I will be doing everything possible to make sure I come back stronger #nostoneunturned," McShane wrote.

There were plenty of "dark days" on his long and lonely recovery as he only returned to the field of play for competitive action with Tyrone in their Ulster SFC opener against Cavan in July before having a sensational impact until the season's end.

McShane was masterful off the bench with his second-half goal helping to bring Sam Maguire back to the Red Hand for the just the fourth time in their history and he never lost the faith despite some challenging moments.

"There definitely was tough times, I'd be lying if I said there wasn't. There was many dark days over lockdown being in the gym yourself doing rehab, it mightn't have been going well that particular day," McShane said.

"The next thing then is you start questioning 'Am I ever going to get back?' so it's not a nice place to be. But I'd good support around me, my friends and family and my girlfriend Kaitlynn, she was there as well and helped me in many different ways.

"You're just always trying to be positive and I did visualise myself getting back and being in Croke Park and scoring and doing good things for the team and I was happy then that that did become a factor, it did happen and we got the win.

"Definitely dark and frustrating days, but you just have to keep going and keep persevering, never give up and I'm proud to say that I did that. I definitely did just visualise myself getting back, getting fit and doing good things."

Life could have been much different for the Owen Roe O'Neill's clubman had he decided to sign on the dotted line with AFL side Adelaide Crows after being flown over to Australia for a 10-day trial with the oval ball last year.

The lure of climbing the summit with Tyrone was too much, though, and his decision was vindicated in brilliant style when Brian Dooher and Feargal Logan's side landed Sam Maguire last month.

"I wouldn't like to describe how I'd feel if I was in Australia when we won the All-Ireland, it would have been a disaster. People have asked me the question 'Why did you stay at home? Why did you not go?'" he said.

"And quite simply that's the answer. My dream was always to win a Sam Maguire with Tyrone and that’s what we have done, we have achieved it. I came to the right decision, it feels like a success. The dream was to win Sam and we’ve managed to do that with Tyrone and we’re delighted."

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The All Star attacker is busy with intermediate club action at present, but focus will quickly turn to the defence of their All-Ireland crown over the winter as they bid to go where no Tyrone side has gone before by securing back-to-back titles.

The motivation will be there and there's plenty of room for improvement – especially given their Covid troubles throughout the season – but McShane knows that the chasing pack will also be looking to take things to "another level" in 2022.

"If you look back at the All-Ireland final, it definitely wasn’t the best game, we’d a good semi-final. You’re going out to aim for perfection, but the reality is that that’s not the case and there’s always mistakes," he said.

"Whenever I look back at the final, I think we could have played better as well, both teams will probably say that, but we know that we can improve but we also know that other teams will be looking to improve and push on next year.

"So we have to be ready for that and we have be ready and make sure that we can take our game to another level as well and that’d be the plan."

What structure next year will have is still up in the air with this weekend's Special Congress poised to vote on possible changes to League and championship formats. McShane is throwing his weight behind Proposal B, a league-based championship, although he knows the outcome is "in the hands of the GAA".

"Proposal B has been the favoured choice of the players, but again it’s in the hands of the GAA to make the decision whatever way it goes. We can only give our opinions and pass it on and see what happens. It’s in their hands and they’ll make the decision.

"There’s lots of things happen different years. I’ve been voting on lots of different things this last number of years and different rule changes, but you want what's best for the GAA going forward.

"And if all teams are to be competing and playing, it’s giving every team a fair chance and you’d be in favour of the proposal that the players selected, Proposal B. It’s out of our hands, though, so we’ll have to see."

2021 Mo Bro ambassador Cathal McShane is throwing his weight behind the upcoming Movember campaign. In November, supporters are encouraged to either grow a moustache, move 60km in the month, host an event or take on an epic challenge. The organisation is appealing to all to get involved, regardless of whether you grow a moustache, and support the health and wellbeing of the men in their lives. All funds go directly towards supporting men’s health projects across mental health and suicide prevention, prostate cancer, and testicular cancer.

Visit ie.movember.com for more information.

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