August 14, 1992
Thomas Tierney on the break for Mayo.
A winner with unfinished business
Profile by John 0'Mahony - Mayo Team Manager 1987 - 1991
As the final whistle sounded in McHale Park, Castlebar in the Connacht final a few weeks ago it was music in the ears of Mayo centre half back Thomas Tierney. It wasn't that Mayo were holding on desperately to a one point lead or anything - they had the game wrapped up early in the second half with a Ray Dempsey goal and an Anthony Finnerty point which brought the crossbar tumbling down following a belated rescue act by Roscommon corner back, Enon Gavin. It wasn't the fact either that it was another Connacht medal - Tierney already had won five of them with Galway in the '80's. The most important factor was that the Milltown man was back in the winners enclosure, back where he belonged.
I've only know Thomas for the last few years but in that time I came to respect and admire his commitment, determination and will to win. Tierney is a winner through and through - nothing less will do. Second best for him is never good enough. This attitude is clearly illustrated in everything he does on the pitch. Many instances come to mind - like the tremendous point he scored against Roscommon in the 1991 Connacht final replay after carrying the ball from the heart of his own defence - or by the mere fact that he played at all in this year's Connacht final - he had picked up an injury a week earlier which left him a doubtful starter right up to the throw in. Courage was never in short supply in the Tierney tank and not only did he play but he was a pillar in the heart of the Mayo defence that took everything the Roscommon attack could throw at them and then formed the launching pad for many of the attacks which broke down the Roscommon defence in the second half.
Born in Milltown in the early sixties Thomas Tierney played his football with the local club and when he went to St. Jarlath's College he won many titles and crowned his achievements there with an All Ireland Colleges' medal in 1978. Success came as well at club level where he played a vital part in Milltown's Galway Championship success in 1981. By this time he became a vital cog in the Galway senior football team and he helped in no small way in three successive Connacht finals in 1982, 1983 and 1984. In 1983 Tierney played as a forward in that famous All Ireland final against Dublin in which had four players sent off. Thomas was one of those who was sidelined that day. Galway lost that final and the nearest they got since was a drawn All Ireland Semi final against Cork in 1987.
That three in a row Connacht titles win for Galway was against an emerging Mayo side which itself was to come to full blossom in 1985 when they defeated Roscommon comprehensively in the Connacht final. Among the young stars on that team who were helping to plot a bright future for Mayo were Peter Ford T.J. Kilgallon and Anthony Finnerty. During those years Ford, Kilgallon and Finnerty teamed up with Tierney to form the nucleus of a great UCG team which won a number of Sigerson Cups under the guidance of Tony Regan. Not only did they play together but they lived together in a flat in Galway, socialised together and became great friends. They gave it everything for their respective counties against each other in the maroon and white of Galway and the green and red of Mayo but a bond had been formed which they never visualised then would bring them all together in the green and red of Mayo for the 1991 Championship. Thomas captained UCG to Sigerson Cup glory in 1984 and later when he qualified as a BComm from the Galway college he took up a teaching job in Westport CBS as it was then. He continued to play with Galway and in the Connacht Final of 1987 in Castlebar gave an outstanding performance at centre back to deprive Mayo of a Connacht title.
When I took over the Mayo Senior team in the winter of 1987 John Maughan was the regular centre back on the team. He picked up a knee injury in a league match against Meath in February of 1988, went in for what we all though was a minor operation in May of that year but as everybody knows in Mayo and Clare especially, he never played again. The centre back position was filled by Dermot Flanagan in 1988, T.J. Kilgallon in 1989 and John Finn in 1990. All excellent footballers but specialist players and badly needed in other positions on the team
As I drove home from our championship defeat by Galway in 1990, our dreams of a 3 in a row Connacht titles dashed the determination grew to bring in new players to revitalise the team for an assault on the 1991 Championship. Players like Anthony McGarry, Kevin Beirne, Pete Butler, Tony Morley, Colm McMenamon, Pat McStay and Jarlath Jennings were blooded in the league along with the fine core player that was already there. There was still however one piece of the jigsaw missing. At the end October of 1990 I approached Thomas Tierney with a view to playing for Mayo. By now he had been living for a number of years in Westport. He hadn't played for Galway since the championship of '89 some eighteen months before that. He was delighted with the chance to play county football again and joined the Mayo panel at training.
The bitter disappointment of Connacht Final replay defeat against Roscommon last year did not diminish Thomas Tierney's resolve and outstanding displays by him in all of this years championship victories against Galway, Sligo and Roscommon saw him getting his due reward with his sixth Connacht medal. When a player plays in an All Ireland final he always wants to get back for more, especially if the first one ended in disappointment. For many of the Mayo players they have this burning ambition since 1989 - for Thomas Tierney, the "unfinished business" goes back 1983. Donegal will need to be at their best keep Mayo out of Croke Park in the middle September.
Taken from Hogan Stand Magazine 14-08-92
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