Eugene McGee: Tyrone worthy winners but Tipp will soon be senior force
Published 04/05/2015 | 02:30
Most football people would have loved to see Tipperary win the U-21 All-Ireland on Saturday, simply because they have been doing wonderful things for the sport in their county against the hurling odds.
That is not to decry Tyrone or the way they play their football.
But emotion or sympathy rarely comes into sport at the highest level of competition, so Tyrone are worthy champions.
You could argue that the result should have gone the other way, citing the two easy frees missed by the previously accurate Kevin O'Halloran for Tipperary in the final minutes or the free that came back off the upright and another that came back off the crossbar, all in the second half.
Indeed, overall Tipp played better quality football than Tyrone, but that does not guarantee victory in a Gaelic football game.
But these sorts of things are always part of the package that constitutes a game of football and when the final whistle blows the final scoreline is the final arbiter.
We all knew Tipperary would be right up there with Tyrone, because that is the way this set of players have been playing for the past four or five years since first coming together as a formidable force.
They won the All-Ireland minor along the way, as well as beating hot-shots Dublin in this year's U-21 semi-final.
It would be hard to prove that Tyrone were any better than Tipp in this game but they scored the only goal of the game which was so crucial.
The legacy of recent Tyrone football was stamped all over this game; in fact it was often a replica of past senior performances in their glory days, with seven Tipp points coming from fouls by Tyrone and several other frees wasted.
In the second half, Tipp forwards were simply stopped from getting in shots come hell or high water, including fouling, and they got four points from frees in the second half, with O'Halloran missing two more.
Tipperary had done their homework and were well tuned in as to the Tyrone style.
They rode the Tyrone-style tackles better than most other teams in recent times and used very astute passing by hand but more impressively, in the terrible conditions, by foot also to stop the Red Hand players from carrying out their trademark tackling of opponents in threes and fours.
That was a major achievement for a young set of Tipperary players. Colin O'Riordan was the star man going into the game, and while Tyrone undoubtedly applied themselves to curbing him, he still achieved a great deal, notably the two fabulous points from play near the finish.
Tyrone changed their style for the second half with good effect.
Earlier they had been playing the ball into their forward line with little to show for it - only three points scored after 20 minutes.
After the extended break that lasted over 40 minutes they started to run at the Tipp defence and this yielded three quick points.
But Tipp read the game smartly and held their opponents to four more scores for the remaining half-hour.
Tipp's failure to make some use of short kickouts was costly and the winners as usual made much better use of this particular tactic.
In the final analysis it was the goal from Cathal McShane that decided the issue as it left Tipp with just a tiny bit too much to overcome in the hectic, often chaotic, final ten minutes.
This should be seen as a disappointment but not a major setback for Tipperary. It is clear they have one of the best selection of young players in the country and good management and coaching should make them a senior force quite soon.
Tyrone will be delighted to grab another All-Ireland after the trials and tribulations of recent times.
Even though this was essentially a team effort rather than a one dominated by exciting individuals - as was the case in previous Tyrone U-21 and Minor All-Irelands - the result is sure to lift morale in the county.
And it will be a surprise if their management team of Fergal Logan, Peter Canavan and Brian Dooher do not step up to the senior team whenever Mickey Harte retires.