Tyrone pose questions but Mickey Harte insists Dubs 'will take some beating'
Dublin 0-10 Tyrone 1-7
One reading of Saturday night is that Tyrone brought Dublin to the limit and that had it not been for Mark Bradley's red card they would likely have won in Croke Park and sent hope coursing through the rest of the All-Ireland contenders.
Another reading is that even with an extra month's worth of games, the team widely regarded as having the tools to upset Dublin still couldn't quite get over the line against a side who do not know how to lose.
As ever, the truth is somewhere in the middle.
Tyrone would almost certainly have closed the game out with a full complement, but then they needed a penalty save from Niall Morgan before that to keep their noses in front.
Bradley's dismissal, for what looked like a push into the neck area of Jonny Cooper, handed Dublin the momentum and they kicked the last five points of the contest to stretch their unbeaten run to 31 games across league and championship.
Perhaps Tyrone should never have let it come to that. They were two points up at half-time (0-5 to 0-3), but kicked eight bad wides in the opening period. They'd add another five to that tally in the second-half to leave the door ajar for Dublin. They did not need a second invitation.
"It's never over until it's over. No matter how many points you are up against Dublin you always know that you are under threat," Tyrone manager Mickey Harte reflected.
"They're a quality side, they're capable of turning things their way in an instant. The sending off obviously didn't help us, it's hard enough to play them with 15 men, with 14 it's just that bit harder. I think we were a bit wayward with some of our finishing. If we had of been a bit more clinical in that department then we could have been in a better position.
"But I can't take anything away from the players. They worked their socks off in difficult conditions. You have to say also that Dublin are not in the form they would be in later in the year.
"We got them early, they're probably recovering from the holiday that they had and they're a bit rusty. They haven't played as many games like we have so there's plenty of reasons why Dublin weren't on song tonight, as they normally are, but they still were good enough to be very difficult to beat. That's why they're champions."
On the restart, Tyrone were as effective against the wind as they were with it. Sean Cavanagh - introduced as a half-time sub for Cathal McShane, who had played 80 minutes in the Sigerson Cup midweek - fed Declan McClure, who in turn set up Aidan McCrory. His close-range strike put five between the teams and put Dublin on the brink.
But putting Dublin on the brink and tipping them over the edge have proven to be very different things over this close to two-year unbeaten run.
Bradley's dismissal opened the door for them and, playing against a Tyrone side that at times had all 14 of their players inside their own 45 as they looked to hang on, they found a way.
In the end, Rock redeemed his penalty miss with a 46m free in injury-time to ensure their run remained intact.
"We believe you should go at the game and I think that was demonstrated in the last quarter," said Jim Gavin.
"Five points down, missed a penalty and they could have said 'to hell with this, it's a cold, windy night in Dublin and I'd prefer to be somewhere else', but they showed great mental character once again, great mental resolve and particularly for the players that came into the game."
Mickey Harte stated his displeasure with Bradley's dismissal and the application of the black card rule that saw Tiernan McCann sent to the line in the first-half, while Gavin also hinted at his unhappiness with referee Joe McQuillan.
"Look, I could go after the free count, in the first quarter I think they had 10 frees and we had one. And we are the team that's trying to play attacking football, so that doesn't kind of balance itself," said Gavin
"But it was a challenging day for the referees as well and they don't always get it right, so it's learning for everybody."
So, nothing lost in the effort, but Dublin still loom large over the football landscape.
"It's early in the season for Dublin. They haven't got the game time behind them that we have or most other counties would have because they were enjoying their success of last year and it's right they should do that," said Harte.
"But you know they will be back and they will be back stronger. And they will take some beating."
SCORERS - Tyrone: A McCrory 1-0, N Sudden 0-3, P Harte (2f) 0-2, C Meyler, D McClure 0-1 each.
Dublin: D Rock 0-6 (6f), B Fenton, P McMahon, C Kilkenny, J Cooper 0-1 each.
Dublin: S Cluxton 6; P McMahon 7, M Fitzsimons 6, J Cooper 7; J McCarthy 6, J Small 6, J McCaffrey 7; B Fenton 6, MD Macauley 6; N Scully 6, P Mannion 6, C Kilkenny 7; C Basquel 6, E O'Gara 6, D Rock 6 Subs: E Lowndes 6 for Basquel (ht), K McManamon 6 for Macauley (44), C Reddin 6 for Mannion (50), D Byrne 6 for McCaffrey (51), J Whelan 6 for Small (57), D Daly 6 for Cooper (59).
Tyrone: N Morgan 7, P Hampsey 6, R McNamee 7, C McCarron 7; T McCann 6, P Harte 6, A McCrory 6; C Cavanagh 7, J McMahon 6; C Meyler 6, N Sludden 8, D McClure 6; D McCurry 6, C McShane 6, M Bradley 6 Subs: R Brennan 6 for McCann (16 BC), S Cavanagh 6 for McShane (ht), J Munroe 6 for McMahon (47), D Mulgrew 6 for Meyler (50), P McNulty for McClure (70).
Ref: J McQuillan (Cavan)