GAELIC GAMES: Kilkenny Crowned Kings While Tyrone Make All-Ireland History: Mickey's Asking for the Sam Again. Make His a Treble
Byline: Orla Bannon
WHEN the Tyrone team ring in the New Year in Dubai tonight there is bound to be a tinge of sadness as they bid farewell to 2003.
What a year it's been for everyone in Red Hand land.
The magic treble of League, Ulster and All-Ireland crowns came to the O'Neill County with Sam Maguire's arrival for the first time sparking memorable scenes on the homecoming tour of Aughnacloy, Ballygawley and best of all in Omagh in front of 50,000 people.
Years of agony were washed away the moment Brian White blew the whistle in the first all-Ulster All-Ireland final with Armagh on Sunday, September 28.
And when Peter Canavan lifted the Cup and made one of the most emotional and proud acceptance speeches heard at Croke Park, it marked the start of a three-month party for success-starved Tyrone fans.
The team's holiday in Dubai this week marks the end of one epic journey and perhaps it will be the start of another.
There's no doubt 2003 has been a good friend to Tyrone but as manager Mickey Harte stressed in his book 'Kicking Down Heaven's Door' he has already started thinking about a title defence.
"I've enjoyed it all and yet... and yet... I can't wait for next year already.
"The real thrill this year was in the journey. The fun was in the preparation, the challenge.
"I want more of the same.
"Winning isn't a year, it's a career.
"It's not just a year in your life, it's a way of life."
Anyone who thought Tyrone will be happy to sit back and savour the achievements of the year gone by can think again.
It's clear from that statement Harte will have his team on a mission to break new ground and set more records.
Chasing a hat-trick of Allianz League titles, becoming the first team to win Ulster via the preliminary round, and becoming the first team since Cork (1989-90) to retain the Sam Maguire will be their primary goals.
It's a tough task but with a squad averaging 24 years of age, there's good reason to be optimistic.
Mickey Harte took over as manager in controversial circumstances but as soon as he started winning, Tyrone fans quickly forgot about the rights of wrongs of how he was appointed.
First he declared his interest in Tyrone retaining their Allianz League crown, believing winning would breed confidence.
There was a few mixed results in the early rounds but the win in Kerry allied to the stylish home victories over Galway, Armagh and Cork were a good indicator of what lay in store.
Tyrone moved up a gear when they got to Croke Park rattling up impressive wins over Fermanagh in the semi-final and kicked 17 points from play against Laois in the final.
The one downer in the final was the stamping incident by Gavin Devlin on Colm Parkinson and video evidence was later used by the GAC to ban the Ardboe defender for 12 weeks.
Tyrone then nearly fell at the first championship hurdle to Derry - almost living up to the critics' tag of being a good league team who collapsed when the stakes were raised.
With 12 minutes to go the hot favourites were four points down but Dooher and Canavan helped save the day. …