‘My starting ambition was to win one match’ – Feargal Logan on Tyrone’s rise to the top
Feargal Logan’s first aspiration when he took over the Tyrone senior football team in tandem with Brian Dooher wasn’t overly ambitious. It was, quite simply, to win one match.
And now they have gone and won the biggest game of all. Sam Maguire in their very first season – after a campaign that appeared in danger of going off the rails after they leaked six goals to Kerry in a calamitous league semi-final back in June.
But Tyrone have now bounced back to win five championship games on the spin, toppling Ulster holders Cavan, ousting Donegal and Monaghan to conquer Ulster, making a mockery of their very long odds against Kerry, and now doing a number on Mayo.
All this while battling a Covid-19 outbreak that threatened their very participation in the All-Ireland series – a challenge they were only able to take on after being granted an extra 13 days’ grace by the GAA.
Deep in the bowels of the Hogan Stand, Logan was asked to reflect on the incredible bounce that he and Dooher have enjoyed after taking over from Mickey Harte.
“You're right, my starting ambition anyway, without declaring it to Brian, was to win one match,” the joint-manager began.
“We managed to do that as Tyrone managers and then it just progressed from there. We had no big plans or targets, to be honest, that way. We just mucked in night after night and saw where it led us and it was fairly up and down - but it's ended happily with Tyrone as All-Ireland champions.”
Logan went on to salute “players who have been battled-hardened and committed their life's cause to it, who are outstanding footballers, and I'm so delighted that they've got All-Ireland medals because it's something special.”
He described his initial post-match emotion as one of “pure relief. I suppose it's always that way in finals maybe, but just pure relief that we got over the line and that the players dug in again.
“Some last-ditch defending and they came out of it winners of the All-Ireland, it's just relief and gladness that everything that has passed has passed and we've done the business on the football field here. Just delighted, and delighted for Brian by my side, and the coaching that has gone on with Holmesy, Pete, Joe, it's just outstanding and it was all evident out there today,” he added, name-checking Collie Holmes, Peter Donnelly and Joe McMahon.
In the dying minutes, as Tyrone closed in on a fourth All-Ireland title, Logan’s mind was dominated by one thought: “No goals, no goals was the big thing,” he said.
“Then there comes a tipping point when you're on the line and you're thinking, 'You know what, we might be home.’ But then you're even afraid to think that because we've all had our shocks in football matches, so no goals was the big thing and just who was out on their feet? And had we anybody left to put in? Essentially that and just the same principles that apply to all matches.”
Logan concluded by referencing the global pandemic that has wreaked so much havoc on our lives – and on the Tyrone dressing-room this summer.
“I think after a year-and-a-half of a public health emergency, everybody was relieved to have something to get excited about,” he reflected.
“Obviously the Kerry game and that victory, when I think we were 6/1 in the bookies, I think that brought the excitement along - but it's a combination of things, and the honest endeavour of the players.
“I think when you mix it all in together, that's what brought the excitement and the hype back to Tyrone. We hoped that it wouldn't put anyone over the edge, and you always try to keep it under control when you're managing.
“It's brilliant; the supporters in Tyrone we all know do their bit. Win, lose or draw, the same club people will be out tomorrow night on the fields of Tyrone. We're just blessed that we have a happy mixture of committed people.”
His fellow boss, Dooher, revealed how the job “consumes every waking minute”, adding: “You haven't much time, to be honest, for anything else but that's the position we put ourselves into and that's what we signed up for.
“It doesn't always work out but today it did work out for us. We have to give credit to the players. They went out there and it mightn't have been pretty at times, but they dug deep and put their bodies on the line. They did it time and time again this year and we can't ask for any more from them,” he concluded.