After two poor second half performances led to defeat to Derry in the Dr McKenna Cup Final and then Roscommon on the opening day of the League, Tyrone All-Star forward Cathal McShane stops just shy of saying there were harsh words exchanged leading up to Sunday’s win over Donegal.
“In the McKenna Cup we probably didn’t get off to a great start and we didn’t finish as we’d like, but it was only two games,” he reasons.
“Dr Hyde Park (home of Roscommon) is a hard place to go and we’ve been down there before, so last week was disappointing but we knew we were more than capable of getting a response this week and that’s what we did.
"We worked hard, trained hard and we put in a good shift out there and got the two points. We stuck together, we backed each other and got the result in the end.
“Donegal is similar to any team in Ulster — it’s always a rivalry and always a tough game and tough battles and this was no different, and we knew that coming in.
“It was all about the response, we were glad to do that and it’s all about kicking on and trying to secure more points to maintain our status in Division One.”
Sometimes, it takes a bad defeat or a bad performance to bring out Tyrone’s better side. A win over Donegal is always welcome, and a natural reaction to that opening day loss to the Rossies.
“Obviously it was disappointing, we knew we were more than capable of coming out here and getting a result and we worked all week at training. We believe in each other, we are working for each other and it was just about the two points,” said the Owen Roes clubman.
“It’s about believing in the system and what we do at training, and obviously implementing on game day and we did that well. It’s just about getting out and getting game time, Division One is never easy and every year proves that.”
Next weekend, the National Football League goes into cold storage with a down week. How teams choose to use that is often a source of intrigue. Some opt to take things easy and allow players to recuperate, while others see it as an ideal excuse for a mini training camp.
But with the Ulster Championship less than nine weeks away, it’s clear few will be taking the foot off the pedal.
“I’m training hard, working hard and feeling good,” he states.
“I don’t know how the GPS reads out there but I covered good ground and I’m always doing my bit for the team. Obviously if you’re contributing, the first thing is working hard for the team and getting the two points, and it’s just about keeping that momentum and keeping it going.
“Every week is a different challenge but we managed to push on and it’s just about setting that down and getting the result the next day out.”
As it happens, the next few games are against Galway, Mayo and Kerry, three massive games, starting with Galway away.
“Galway is never easy, they had an interesting performance against Mayo but we can only worry about ourselves and get everything right at our end and we have a week off to go and learn and progress again.”
That game takes place in Tuam Stadium, the venue where McShane suffered a horrendous dislocated and torn ligament injury on his ankle on February 23, 2020. Such was the complicated nature of the injury, the recovery was a tough journey. Nothing was straightforward but his resilience certainly had to cope.
Speaking the year after, he gave some insight into the horrible nature of that injury and the loneliness that came with lockdown training.
“Whenever I did the research and got the full diagnosis of it all, the chances of doing the injury I suffered was rated at one per cent or two per cent. At the start, I thought it might be too bad but obviously, it progressed to be worse,” he revealed.
“There were many dark days over lockdown. Even being in the gym myself and after five or 10 minutes realising this isn’t going to work. You just have to go home. There’s a lot of emotion that comes along with it but I got great help with physios and different men and I can’t be thankful enough to them.”
Looking at it now, he prefers to not look back on it. Instead, he boils it down to process and performance.
“That’s it, I’m not thinking too much on it. You go out every day and prep for the best.
“It wasn’t a good time no doubt, but I’m proud of how far I’ve come from then just with training and all the rest; the rehab and the amount of hours that went into that.
“I’m proud to be back playing and looking forward to our next game in Galway.”