Ryan McMenamin reflects on 18th anniversary of Tyrone's first ever All-Ireland 3 weeks ago

Ryan McMenamin reflects on 18th anniversary of Tyrone's first ever All-Ireland

"It was the quickest week of my life."

Ryan 'Ricey' McMenamin was an important cog of the engine that drove Sam Maguire up to Tyrone for the very first time in their history.

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18 years ago today, Peter Canavan climbed the Hogan Stand after a thrilling game against Armagh, that saw the Red Hand county emerge victorious 0-12 to 0-9.

It just so happens that this is the year that Tyrone have risen to the top yet again, but nearly two decades on from that historic day, Ricey looks back on that 2003 season.

"Time flies and you don't really think of it, until someone brings it up to you, and it's hard to think that it's 18 years.

"You thought at the time when you won it that it would be a long, long way off, but now it's coming up to the 20th anniversary.

"The 08 squad met up a few years ago, but we would all run into each other at club football anyway, I ran into Peter (Canavan) there a couple of Saturdays ago on the line, with Errigal ladies, and I seen Brian McGuigan at a club game, so we see each other now and again."

When Tyrone won it in 2003, it was customary for the fans to flood the pitch right at the final whistle, unlike in the modern game, where it is strictly only players, but Ricey enjoyed that connection with the supporters.

"It was crazy, you met some characters, it was a wee bit crazy, but you enjoyed it, definitely different now with the fans not on it, everyone was going mental.

"Maybe the players enjoy having their own space on the pitch now, but for me I enjoyed it, it was a battle getting up into the stand after it, but hugely enjoyable.

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"Afterwards, it was the quickest week of my life, you were everywhere and anywhere, going town to town, and it was a tough week considering you had to play a club match the following Sunday.

"I remember we ended up in Ardboe and it was just crazy, I ended up staying at Mickey Coleman's house, however that happened.

"You don't appreciate it all at the time, it's only now looking back, that you appreciate it, and you look at all the boys that went before you and all the other teams that went before you.

"You look at the '86 team and the '95 team, and you're thinking, how didn't they win more? But it's always nice to get the first one and be a part of that.

"When we lost in '01 and '02, nobody said or asked 'would we ever win one?' But when Mickey came in, it probably galvanised the work that Art McCoy and Eugune McKenna put in.

"At the start of every year, the goal was to win an All-Ireland, and how we do it, and how we go about it, and it we never thought that we wouldn't win one."

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Success breeds success, and this year was the first time that Tyrone won an All-Ireland without the involvement of Ryan McMenamin, however he enjoyed being a fan this time round.

"It was great to see the boys win it this year, it takes the pressure off them, and probably closes the chapter of that team in the noughties.

"It's great for the next generation, from talking to nieces, nephews, cousins and all, and it's just fantastic. Anytime you see a young child now, they're in Tyrone gear or Gaelic gear and it's great to see.