While the Presidental Salute and the “Star of the County Down” echoed through the Cusack Stand players’ tunnel as Kerry and Tyrone lined up ahead of the All Ireland senior final, Ray Dempsey was the coolest man in Croke Park as he picked over what had just unfolded in the minor decider.
Straight off the bat, he was focused on what lay ahead tomorrow in Longford. “Mixed emotions, it was a very tight game and it ended up a draw and we have to go back and do it all again. We have to start now again and prepare from this minute on so we can preform and compete again in next week’s game.”
With every game his side have played this year Dempsey has seen his players grow into a side that would have earned the right to be in Croke Park on All Ireland final day. “Our lads needed that game again, I think when you have a bunch of lads who can see what needs to be done, they looked at themsleves before and this week they’ll be looking at themsleves for next weekends match and with a bit of luck, they’ll get to play in front of their own support. They have been unlucky this year that bar the Connacht final they haven’t been able to play in front of more than a couple of thousand of their own supporters. I’d say our lads will be looking forward to that aspect of the game, that they will get to play in front of a Mayo crowd for a change.”
The prize is still there to be won
As the dictaphones jostled for position, Dempsey was keen to emphasise that it won’t be any easier tomorrow in the replay and that Tyrone are a county that have become one of the traditional powers in football over the last decade.
“We can’t be soft, the final is there, the prize is still there to be won. It’s a long season for the Tyrone lads too who were playing in the Hogan Cup-some of their lads will have been going nearly two years non-stop. They are quality players and Tyrone showed their composure out there and it’s easy to see the level of work they’re putting into it out there and they are really bringing underage along with the seniors. They are really becoming an traditional force in football and I don’t think that people are giving them enough credit for it. Six years ago they didn’t even have an All Ireland senior title, Mickey Harte has done great work and Ray Munroe is now carrying it on. You have to give credit where credit is due.”
Spotting and plugging the gaps
While Mayo started like a whirlwind, Tyrone kicked back into the contest midway through the first half and Dempsey and his management team were glad to see the break come. They used that time wisely to stop the seeping of scores. “They kicked a few scores and did an awful lot of interchanging, we had to address that point and we did address that at half time.”
Dempsey isn’t just happy to be in a final he, want’s to win it, and has stated all year that he wants to see more from his players in each game and it’s the same for next week. “But again it’s all about the person, it’s all about what a person is made of. You’ll come across situations in a match and the ability to recover, push on, more so than when you do something good, is more important. Whichever way the game goes next week we’re happy with todays performance and we’re hoping that we have another good one next week.”