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'Miracle' of Mellon's return Print E-mail

Published By Kevin Kimmage in the Sunday Independent on Sunday October 2nd 2005

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Ryan Mellon, Tyrone GAAON Wednesday evening, the celebrations ground to a halt pending the resumption of internal hostilities. With the county's pre-eminence established, it was time for Tyrone's clubs to take precedence. The GOAL Challenge in Omagh represented the cut off point.
Brian Dooher and Stephen O'Neill made their exit at half time, to train with their club. They weren't the only ones. Eoin Mulligan didn't line out at all that evening while the Moy contingent's journey to Omagh was a diversion en route to the club's training session in Eglish.

With 18 members of the panel in action this weekend, the parading of the cup was put on hold, temporarily. They had the rest of their lives to celebrate.

But what the party lacked in length it made up for in quality. It began at the after-match banquet in the Citywest hotel, continued on the homeward journey through Aughnacloy and on to Omagh on Monday, then headed north to Brian Dooher's country in Aughabrack on Tuesday. Most of the players had seen it all two years earlier, but, strangely enough this time, that was a source of extra pleasure.

"When we won it in 2003, nobody knew what was coming next." says Ryan Mellon. "As a result, maybe some of the boys would have said that it went too fast the first time. They were off the pitch and the banquet was over before they realised it. But this time you knew what to expect, so you just knew you had to savour every single moment."

Mellon grew up playing with Moy and graduated to the county set-up among the crop of excellence that was harvested into the 1998 All-Ireland minor title winning team

Mellon had even more reason to savour the moment. Before the game, he had been recognised in some media analysis as one of the team's weak links. On the day he kicked two points in the opening five minutes, won some crucial primary phase possession in the second half and worked so hard all through that RTE Radio's match analyst, Ray Silke, nominated him man of the match.

Yet none of the joy he felt afterwards was derived from proving a point. He says he wasn't even aware of their comments anyway. His was a satisfaction rooted in personal adversity. One of the first people he phoned after the game was, ironically, a Kerry woman.

Without the help of Kathleen Ward, he may not have been playing last weekend. She is the alternative medicine practitioner from Castleblayney who found the light in the blackest of caves just over a year ago. It was she who achieved what all the doctors and specialists he had attended prior to that couldn't. She began the process to give him back his strength; to rebuild his football career, to return to a quality of life that he had once taken for granted.

The Mellon family home is situated beside his father's car showrooms, just off the Armagh road, three quarters of a mile from the village of Moy. With the two counties separated by the Blackwater river on the edge of the village, geographically speaking Mellon has lived in Armagh all his life. His mother, Greta, is an Armagh woman, and he went to school there as well.