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Last Updated: Monday, 29 September, 2003, 11:32 GMT 12:32 UK
Tyrone joy is a sight to behold
By John Haughey

The Armagh team's homecoming to the Orchard County after last year's All-Ireland success heralded remarkable emotion.

Mickey Harte and his managerial colleagues Paddy Tally (left) and Father Gerard McAleer
Mickey Harte (centre) masterminded Tyrone's triumph

Nevertheless, the scenes in Tyrone over the last few days have topped the fervour witnessed in places such as Crossmaglen and Armagh City 12 months ago.

Apologies to the other 31 counties in Ireland, but there are no more passionate GAA fans that those who hail from Tyrone.

One remembers the delirium which greeted the surprise 1995 Ulster Semi-Final win over Derry when a 13-man outfit managed to slay the All-Ireland winners of two years previously.

This correspondent will never forget the outpouring of raw emotion which greeted that backs-to-the-wall success.

But it was only a provincial semi-final so the colour and the scenes which will continue to grip the county over the next days and weeks is going to be a sight to behold.

All 20 Tyrone players contributed to the victory in what was a dour struggle.

But the image which will stick in the mind years from now when we look back on the 2003 final will be that of Peter Canavan holding the Sam Maguire Cup aloft.

Tyrone fans must have wondered whether a dodgy-ankle was going to deny the footballing genius his Holy Grail

The finest player of his generation, no-one deserves a precious All-Ireland medal more than the Errigal Ciaran clubman.

For much of his career, it looked as though the ultimate prize was going to elude him.

Indeed for a couple of years after being the meat in a crude Meath sandwich in the 1996 All-Ireland Semi-Final, Canavan almost laboured with one injury setback after another causing him and Tyrone to slip down the GAA pecking order.

Thankfully, he was then reinvigorated by the emergence of one of the most exciting bunch of players in the history of the GAA.

In their midst, Peter became great again with the forward workload now shared by comparative youngsters such as Stephen O'Neill, Owen Mulligan and Brian McGuigan.

But when the big chance came around again after a eight-year gap, Tyrone fans must have wondered whether a dodgy-ankle was going to deny the footballing genius his Holy Grail.

In the event, Canavan's open play was severely affected by the injury but his five frees ultimately proved the difference between Tyrone winning and losing.

But while Canavan remains and will forever remain God to Tyrone fans, Mickey Harte is the Red Hand County's Holy Spirit.

Kevin Hughes (left) had a tremendous game in midfield for Tyrone
Kevin Hughes (left) won the man-of-the-match honour

Harte is a hugely impressive man.

The Ballygawley man took the job amid controversy after the county board decided that Eugene McKenna should not take the helm on his own after Art McRory's request for a time-out because of health concerns.

However, Harte handled his appointment with aplomb and since then, has not put a foot wrong.

He is probably the most articulate manager in the history of the GAA and his accessiblity and calm demeanour makes him a boon for the ever-expanding Irish sports media.

On Monday morning after a long night of celebration, he even had the courtesy to return an early morning call from the BBC so that he could give a few minutes to Good Morning Ulster before nine o'clock.

It was a gesture so typical of Harte.

Few if any sports fans in Ireland, will begrudge his and Tyrone's success.


SEE ALSO
Sam arrives in Tyrone
29 Sep 03  |  Gaelic Games
Tyrone are All-Ireland champions
28 Sep 03  |  Gaelic Games


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