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02nd Sep 2018

How ‘beardgate’ swept the nation and helped Tyrone over the line in 2008

Michael Corry

‘Beardgate’ swept the nation as Tyrone stormed their way to an unexpected All-Ireland title in 2008.

Back then the Tyrone side where at a low ebb.

Despite All-Ireland victories in 2003 & 2005, they were viewed as a team on the slide. The household names were passed their best, and the younger lads didn’t have what it took.

As well as that, how could Tyrone win an All-Ireland without ‘Peter the Great’ being there.

The mood in Tyrone was low going into ’08, and that was reflected in the teams performance. They were dumped out of Ulster in the quarter final by a Down side who would in turn be beaten by Armagh in the semi final.

Tyrone, once again had to navigate themselves through the backdoor.

The Red Hands stumbled over the challenge of Louth, Westmeath and Mayo to fall into a quarter final with heavy favourites Dublin.

And as they say… the rest is history!

Tyrone swept aside Dublin, followed by a semi final win over Wexford, before toppling reigning champions Kerry in the All-Ireland final to collect their third Sam Maguire cup.

Many though put Tyrone’s win down to their facial hair.

You see, after the defeat by Down many of the Tyrone players began to grow beards, the whole episode spiralled into a life of it’s own and come the end of the season, Tyrone are champions, and the beards are the reason.

At the GAA Hour live show, Colm Parkinson brought up ‘beardgate’ to three of the main culprits, who, as it turns out are all still sporting beards today.

  • Owen Mulligan
  • Ryan McMenamin
  • Joe McMahon

Wooly wanted to get to the bottom of what happened, did it actually help the team get over the line in ’08

It turns out Mugsy accidentally started the facial hair craze, and Ricey made him keep it.

Mugsy explained, “I was photographed in the Irish News with alongside these boys, and for fuck’s sake I had a ginger beard. And your man (Ricey) says to me ‘You can’t shave it now, it’s simple as that, you’re gonna have to grow it, or else it’s bad luck.'”

Ricey then turned storyteller, slagging Mulligan about how bad his beard was, before quipping to the audience that Joe McMahon had only started growing his beard two days before the quarter final meeting with Dublin.

If you cast your mind back, Joe McMahon probably had the most impressive beard of the lot.

As Tyrone’s summer extended further and further fans starting buying into the ‘beardgate’ with many buying fake beards and masks of the players and wearing them to the games.

Wooly pressed the lads on whether growing the beards was a sports psychology method that spurred the team on. The general consensus was that there wasn’t much psychology behind the beards, and that it was just a welcome distraction for everyone involved.

Ricey said, “It was a distraction for the players and a distraction for the supporters.”

Joe McMahon also cited that growing the beards was just a distraction from what was happening on the pitch.

Ten years have passed since these lads reached the top of the mountain, and to put their victory down to a bunch of men growing beards would be unfair.

However, you can’t help but feel that it played a major role in helping all the players, management and supporters relax in the lead up to an All-Ireland final.

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