'No social media!' - Conor Meyler explains simple message to Tyrone's group chat before All-Ireland win
"I don’t think I’ve been in the house long enough to even sit and reflect."
Today is the ninth day that Conor Meyler has been a reigning All-Ireland champion and it is still sinking in. The celebrations have been flat-out in Tyrone and will carry on a while yet.
"It’s been a bit of a hectic week, as you can imagine," says Meyler.
"It’s funny. I still see myself as the same person, just Conor Meyler, but people maybe see me differently now, as Conor Meyler, All-Ireland winner, which is strange and is probably going to take a while to get used to."
Meyler is talking with us on a day when he was named the PwC GAA/GPA Footballer of the Month for September. He joins us on 'Teams' from Omagh St Enda’s GAA and has been left in relative peace. For a while anyway.
The Tyrone star has been part of the senior set-up since 2015, when he helped his county's U21 side to the All-Ireland Final. As someone who has fond memories of seeing Tyrone raise the Sam Maguire in 2005, alongside his father, at Croke Park, it has long been his desire to be part of a team to do likewise.
The road has often been tough. Moments of hope or daylight have been quelled or crushed. Meyler's early inter-county years, like those of so many others, were spent in the shadow of Dublin. When they got to the final against the Dubs, they were beaten long before the final whistle was sounded.
Meyler had broken his leg only four weeks before that final, three years ago. He did everything he could to get back, including sleeping in an oxygen tent. He started against Dublin and that he lasted 39 minutes is a miracle in itself. Still, he ended up on the losing side. Meyler feels that experience ultimately helped many of his teammates.
Tyrone had to go through Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan, in Ulster, before taking on a Kerry side that many had backed for the All-Ireland after Mayo had seen off Dublin in the other semi. They did all that while a large swathe of their panel battled back from bouts with Covid-19, some worse than others.
Ahead of a final that was twice pushed back, Meyler recalled his one other trip to the big dance - that six point loss to Dublin that was over by half-time. His mind was clearer, this time, and he would send in a message to the Tyrone panel's group chat with some sound advice.
"We probably enjoyed the idea of being in an All-Ireland Final, and maybe got carried away with yourself. There are a lot of media duties and banquets, and stuff like that, that don’t always happen. There was probably a lot of talk about that [before].
"I put in a message to the group, early in the week, to say 'No social media. Leave media to management and focus on the football'.
"Inevitably, the mind will take you elsewhere - away from the game - and I just wanted to treat it like any other game. Don’t call it an All-Ireland Final, it’s just another game. The same way you would for that, rather than thinking of all the external stuff that comes with a final.
"We nearly got caught up in the occasion, rather than the match, in 2018. I’m saying this and all the boys were so focused and wanted to win the game. The experience of being in a final and losing one stood to us, though, as we learned from our mistakes."
"I would have deleted all my social media about a week out," Meyler adds. "I had the right company of family and friends, trying not to chat about football either.
"We can hype it up too much and read into it. I think in 2018, we definitely read into the hype. When I look back we definitely weren't ready to win the final in terms of our progression as a team."
In this year's final, Tyrone faced a Mayo side that had most of the country pulling for after their long stretch of final heartbreaks. For Meyler, though, this was right where he wanted to be:
"Genuinely, I was smiling and laughing at times," he says. "I was enjoying myself, believe it or not.
"It sounds a wee bit odd but I just found that by relaxing this year, it definitely helped my game.
"Sometimes I get too hyped up and too tense and underperform then. You’re thinking too much whereas it’s just trying to go out and a mindset of ‘Don’t think, just play and see what happens’.
"Inevitably, you’re marking some of the best players in Ireland so they’re going to get the ball, and they’re going to possibly score. That happens and it’s just a case of getting on with it.
"I really enjoyed the actual game as well. A lot of it though, when you’re in that zone or close to it, you’re not thinking about it so it will be good to watch the game back in detail."
On the big day, Meyler had a stormer. He was one of Tyrone's stand-out players as they went all the way and delivered Sam Maguire success for coaches Brian Dooher and Feargal Lohan in their first year at the helm.
While he still finds it strange to hear his name tossed about in All Star conversations with 'your David Cliffords and Brian Fentons', Meyler beams when he considers what All-Ireland glory means for his county. To his girlfriend and parents, Sean and Paula, he reserves so much praise for their un-ending support.
"I’m so grateful for my mother. She’s the kindest, most caring woman I’ve ever met... I think all mothers care a lot about their sons and want them to do well, but I’m very grateful to have her. It’s all these little things outside of football. When all of that is going well, the football is easy. For me, it’s all about having good support networks; that’s important. I’m very grateful. When I’m doing my gratitude work, I’m praying and thankful for my family. I’m blessed."
"Like most young boys," he adds, "you idolise your Da. I would have looked up to him when he was training and running. I wanted to come along.
"Or when people were talking about Dad playing for Tyrone. I was thinking, 'I want to make him proud. I want to play for Tyrone'."
He has done just that, and so much more.