First Ulster Senior Football Titles, 1956-57

The breakthrough finally came in 1956. Tyrone overcame Derry and Monaghan in the early stages of the Ulster Championship to reach their first final since 1941. As usual, Cavan stood in their way. On this occasion, to the astonishment of GAA followers throughout Ireland, Tyrone emerged comfortable winners by 3-5 to 0-4.

The significance of this achievement should not be underestimated. Cavan had completely dominated Ulster since 1918, winning 16 titles between 1931 and 1949. The most recent of their five All-Ireland wins had come in 1952, and the year before Tyrone’s victory they had won Ulster comfortably and taken Kerry, the eventual All-Ireland champions, to a replay in the All-Ireland semi-final. Disappointment for Tyrone followed their great achievement in Ulster, with a narrow, two point defeat by Galway in the semi-final at Croke Park, partly as a result of a brilliant save by the Galway goalkeeper, Jack Mangan, in the late stages of the game.

Nonetheless, Tyrone had arrived as a provincial power in Ulster, and this change in status was recognised by an invitation to tour the United States with the Cork and Wexford hurling teams later that year. To their credit, Tyrone retained their Ulster title in 1957, beating Derry in the final, but again fell at the penultimate hurdle at national level against Louth. However, the breakthrough had been made, and at the end of 1957, the Gaels of Tyrone could justifiably look to the future with real optimism. The struggles of the previous half century seemed to have paid off at last, and it seemed only a matter of time before the cherished dream of winning the Sam Maguire Cup would be fulfiled.