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04th Sep 2018

Conor Meyler started All-Ireland final four weeks after breaking his leg

Patrick McCarry

No way in the world he was sitting this one out.

On August 5, Conor Meyler fractured his leg in a Super 8s win over Donegal.

On September 2, four weeks later, he started the All-Ireland final and was tasked with trying to bottle magic in the ominous shape of Brian Fenton.

On the Friday before the final, Tyrone legend Ryan ‘Ricey’ McMenamin boldly declared what the Red Hand mentality would be against the reigning champs. He proclaimed:

“Honestly, it’s the same this year. People are getting worried about Dublin but Tyrone are just going to go down and say, ‘F**k it!’

On Sunday, Meyler laced up, slapped some lift into his legs and sprinted out onto the pitch behind captain Mattie Donnelly. Don’t let them see a glint of weakness. All or nothing. F**k it.

Meyler pictured 3 weeks before the final. (Brendan Moran/Sportsfile)

Whenever we caught sight of him at Croke Park, he was working, harrying and hounding. If you often missed Meyler on your TV screens during that final against Dublin, he was sticking as close to Fenton as humanly possible and doing his damnedest to disrupt his flow.

As Colm Parkinson noted on The GAA Hour, it was not until Meyler was substituted, on 40 minutes, that Fenton began to cut loose. The midfielder came to the fore, driving forward, and kicked two second-half points.

Fully fit, Meyler could have shackled him more. Coming into the game on the back of such a serious injury and with only one week of proper training was always going to be an ask. The fact that he did as requested and plagued Fenton for 40 minutes is a mark of the player, and man.

Following Tyrone’s 1-14 to 2-17 loss to Dublin, Meyler told the Irish Examiner:

“It was a big setback against Donegal, I actually fractured my tibia. Nobody gave me a chance. I was told my season was over.

“I could have been out for 12 weeks, and I managed to be back in three, to give myself a chance to play in an All-Ireland final, which was a dream come true.”

After hobbling out of that win over Donegal, in early August, Meyler got straight back to it and, after a few days of assessment and rest, plunged into rehab. He would miss the semi-final against Monaghan but placed his faith in his teammates that they would reach the final. When they did, he would be there.

The county board, physios, coaches and his Tyrone teammates may have harboured some deep kernel of doubt, privately, but all rowed in behind the Omagh native. All pulled together to give him a fighting chance of making that first Sunday of September.

He was not named in the starting 15, on Thursday night, but was one of two late changes on the Sunday. Meyler and Rory Brennan were pressed into action from the start, and it was a hell of a start.

Unfortunately for him and his team, both could not sustain that sensational drive for long and Dublin roared back to make it four-in-a-row. Meyler defied all conventional logic to play his part but he will be determined that his All-Ireland final story will not end there.