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McMenamin recalls ‘surreal’ 2004 clash with Mayo

Mayo's Conor Mortimer attempts to get past Tyrone's Ryan McMenamin and Michael McGee back in 2004

Mayo’s Conor Mortimer attempts to get past Tyrone’s Ryan McMenamin and Michael McGee back in 2004

SHOCKED supporters could hardly contemplate what they had just witnessed during the opening minutes of Tyrone’s clash against Mayo nine years ago.

High expectations, of course, surrounded the prospects of the Red Hands. As All-Ireland champions, hopes were high that they would confidently dispose of the challenge posed by the Connacht men.

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But then the carefully laid preparations were thrown into disarray. Fermanagh’s victory over Armagh in the curtain-raiser had just sent shockwaves around Croke Park. Now, all bets were off and the Mayo men capitalised in fine fashion in their clash with Tyrone.

Ryan McMenamin remembers the game well, and the atmosphere which permeated the stands as the All-Ireland Quarter Final got underway.

“The Mayo game [in 2004] was a strange game, a surreal game,” remarked the Dromore man.

“Fermanagh had just beat Armagh and that had an impact.

“We took our eye off the ball. We were guilty of getting ahead of ourselves and thinking that if we won we would be playing Fermanagh.

“On the day Mayo were just a  better team.

“We felt that we were in a good place, we felt that we were well prepared, but it was just one of those days.”

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Mayo went on to defeat Fermanagh after a replay in the All-Ireland semi-final, but then collapsed completely in the final against Kerry. No wonder, then, that 2004 is very much viewed as a missed opportunity for Mickey Harte and his players.

But there’s no doubt that the surprise outcome of the curtain-raiser and the manner in which it was achieved affected the mood and ultimately Tyrone’s fortunes.

“I haven’t really thought about it that much because it was one of those days that you would just like to forget. It was hard to explain.

“There was a brilliant atmosphere before the game. There was a big hoopla with Fermanagh winning. When we went out, nothing went right for us. It was just one of those games.

“Everything that we did was wrong. I don’t remember much from the game, but I remember walking off the field and thinking that it was an All-Ireland title that we left behind us.”

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