AISFC Final 2003 - Maghery Connections
23 September 2003
LATECOMER DEVLIN SET TO REPAY HARTE'S FAITH
Tuesday September 23rd 2003
Frank McGuigan's spacious garden was Croke Park every day for the young boys who grew up on that stretch of Ardboe, hard by the shore of Lough Neagh.
Frank's own sons Frank and Brian were often joined by the Devlin twins from nearby. All-Ireland finals were daily occurrences, matches that left the lawns full of craters and the flower beds so dismembered even Gerry Daly couldn't have put them back together again.
To this day, Frank senior reckons the other Devlin was the best of them but he'll be the one member of that quartet in the stands today, the others will be central to the action. That it's only Gavin Devlin's first season as a Tyrone senior panelist is a reflection of the faith Mickey Harte has in him.
Despite winning two All- Ireland U21 medals in 2000 and 2001 with the crew that now forms the backbone of the current team, Devlin was overlooked by the previous management. Harte always knew he had a role for him.
He was delighted to see his old minor and U21 boss take the reins last autumn. The methods employed to oust the Art McRory/Eugene McKenna axis may not have pleased everyone but for the players who had won so much under Harte, the end result mattered more than the journey it took to get their man.
But if it was act of faith for Harte to include Devlin in his squad at the start of the year, it looked like an outrageous gamble by the manager when he selected him at centre-back for the All-Ireland semi-final against Kerry after serving a three-month ban.
The offence that earned the three months for Devlin has been well documented. He walked on the back of Colm Parkinson's legs during the one-sided NFL final last April, picked up a yellow card but was banned when the GAC reviewed video evidence of the incident on the morning of Tyrone emphatic Ulster quarter-final replay win over Derry.
By a strange twist in the rules Devlin was permitted to keep playing with his club which kept him match-sharp throughout the duration of the ban. He never saw his selection against Kerry coming though. "Mickey named the team on the pitch," Devlin recalls. "Usually we might get a wee sneak idea as to who might be in. But we never did and to tell you the truth it caught me off guard.
"I know people every where were surprised by my selection. But that's the type of man Mickey Harte is. He does his own thing and sticks by his convictions. He'll not listen to anyone."
It was a crushing blow for Devlin to miss most of the summer activity but deep down he sensed that his season would not end at that.
"I got the call on my way back down from Dublin after a hearing that it was three months and naturally I was down. But from the minute I walked into the changing room that afternoon and the lads lifted my spirits I always aimed for the day that I would be available again. I knew Tyrone could still be in the championship."
His respect for Harte is mutual. "Mickey has been a major influence on all of us. He eats, sleeps and drinks football and it passes off on to all of us."
But it's his captain Peter Canavan who he idolises, always has done. "For the older members of my family Frank (McGuigan) was the man but for me it was Peter. To be playing alongside him now is something I never dreamed of."
Twelve months ago Devlin watched the All-Ireland final unfold in a local Ardboe bar. A rivalry bordering on hatred between the two counties? He'll not hear a word of it. His father is from Maghery in Armagh and he holds a deep respect for the Armagh players. That night he headed for Armagh city for a couple of hours, savoured the atmosphere and wondered what it would be like if it was Dungannon, Omagh or the spiritual homes of Ballygawley and Carrickmore.
"Everyone in Ardboe was shouting for Armagh. To see an Ulster team beat the great Kerry in an All-Ireland final. People are making a big deal about ourselves and Armagh and the rivalry there is. But there would be nothing but respect between the players.
"We want to play Armagh at full strength and if they beat us fair and square then we'll take our hats off to them. May the best team win."
BRIAN HAS A FOOT IN EACH CAMP
By John Campbell
17 September 2003
Tyrone player Brian Robinson has a foot in both All Ireland finalists' camps.
His father hails from Maghery, an Armagh GAA stronghold but Brian's total loyalty is to Tyrone.
A regular for much of last year. he was edged out of his defensive role this year but provides solid cover from the bench.
An accountant, the tall 23-year-old already holds two National League medals as well as an Ulster championship medal.
And he certainly would have no objection to pocketing an All Ireland medal.
"That would be the real icing on the cake. There's great commitment within this Tyrone side and it would be nice to round off the year by lifting what would be out first All Ireland title," says Brian.
He plays his club football with Donaghmore, formerly managed by Paudge Quinn who snapped up Tyrone's only goal in their 1986 All Ireland final against Kerry. Paudge, incidentally is now part of the Errigal Ciaran management set-up.