Tuesday 21 November 2017

Statement of intent from dynamic Dubs


Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Sometimes you just know. Pat Gilroy knew. He could see it all fermenting in the lab for the last four weeks.

He couldn't say it, of course, but his Dublin team was primed for a performance of the highest quality.

After three seasons ironing out all the creases, flattening the bumps and cajoling people to get onside with his way of thinking, his way of playing, they delivered. Spectacularly so.

There have been days when Dublin have cut teams to ribbons in a variety of ways, generally with the oxygen of goals or rigorous defence within their own province.

But this was different. This was Tyrone being humiliated in a way that Dublin had suffered against them only three years ago at the same stage.

The Dubs' performance had everything.

From the early minutes you could sense that the collective will and muscle of the Dublin defensive system would hold firm in the face of anything Tyrone could throw at them.

When Kevin Hughes sliced a shot wide in that opening period, there was evidence of panic and rush in the shot, an understanding that to delay would give the cavalry, led superbly by Ger Brennan, a chance to press. Running through the defence just wasn't an option.

But it was at the other end where Dublin really found their groove, with Diarmuid Connolly coming of age with a sensational display of accuracy.

Inter-county football has been a hard sell to Connolly, but Gilroy and Mickey Whelan, his St Vincent's club- mates, know what they are dealing with. Their investment of faith was repaid handsomely with a seven-point return here.


The night was a manifestation of everything Gilroy and his management have worked towards. They have successfully removed the 'me' from Dublin football and you could count on one hand how many times a player didn't do what was right by the team.

In difficult conditions, their handling was close to perfect, reminiscent of the evening Kerry put Galway to the sword in that deluge three years ago.

This brought a level of consistency to their game -- 11 points in each half, 19 in all from play from a total of 22. They were faster, fitter, stronger.

After the Leinster final Gilroy acknowledged that the performance wouldn't take them much further. On Saturday night, it was hard to see how their latest performance, if repeated, won't take them all the way.

"I am not surprised that we gave that performance. The things that were going on in our training sessions over the last four weeks, I have never seen anything like it," said Gilroy afterwards.

"The 'A' team versus the 'B' team ... the other 19 guys on the panel probably deserve more credit for tonight's performance than those who played.

"The work that they put in and the pressure they put on people in the last three weeks was phenomenal. The big risk when you have that gap... the response that we got from those other 19 lads was just phenomenal.

"The lads will tell you, there was not an inch given and I think that is where that performance came from."

You could sense that Gilroy meant every word of it, that it wasn't just a nod to those on the periphery.

At their St Clare's training ground in DCU, the Dublin management narrowed the parameters of the pitch and the players hit hard, with no quarter asked or given.

Then, when they got to Croke Park on Saturday night, there was release -- it was like a coiled spring. Tyrone were in the path of a tempest.

For Mickey Harte, it's the first time in a nine-year career that he has ended a season empty handed -- not even a McKenna Cup to savour.

On a personal level, this has been a most difficult year for him, but he has vowed to continue and see out the latest extension of his term, which takes him to the end of 2012.

To go forward, Harte may have to make seismic changes, not just to personnel, but to the way they do their business. Tyrone did not look nearly as well-conditioned as their opponents and that is something he needs to address.

They leaked everywhere and it looked like age and the frequency of battles had caught up with them.

Harte certainly lost the tactical battle to Gilroy. Not offering the protection of a sweeper to his full-back line until 20 minutes into the game when Martin Penrose went back, invited trouble that quickly spread.

By then Connolly had kicked his fourth point and was now being trailed by Sean O'Neill after destroying an out-of-sorts Justin McMahon.

Dublin had built up a head of steam and with Paul Flynn enjoying his best game yet and Alan Brogan continuing the form that makes him a strong Footballer of the Year candidate by popping up just about everywhere and linking everything, the flow to Pascal McConnell's goal was steady.


Bernard Brogan improved as the game progressed, shaking the Wexford game out of his system. He drew a magnificent save out of McConnell in only the second minute after taking a pass over the top from Flynn and went on to score five points.

Harte admitted that he could have made "five or six substitutions" at half-time, so badly beaten were his team in so many areas.

"I'd say, at one stage, we were looking worse than it was at half-time. But then we could have closed the game to 9-6 -- that would have been a flattering position to be in."

Tyrone had been five points down in the first game against Dublin in 2005, but were transformed after a positional overhaul and never looked back.

This time, Dublin were never going to allow a 0-11 to 0-6 lead to drift and, within three minutes of the restart, had increased their advantage to eight points as Connolly, Bastick and Flynn found the target.

The psychological significance of Bastick knocking Conor Gormley, the established bulwark of the Tyrone defence for so long, to the ground at one point in the second half was immeasurable for Dublin.

It told everything about their mindset.

Gilroy got all his decisions right, from recalling the highly industrious Michael Darragh Macauley to midfield to the choice of Cian O'Sullivan in defence for his first start of the championship.

Dublin didn't score a goal, but it wasn't because they didn't create the chances.

Both Brogans and Flynn all went close as Dublin tried to turn the screw in a high-octane six-minute spell that ended with Gormley getting between Connolly and Bernard Brogan to foil a certain goal.

The lead was never more than nine points and that was a tribute to Tyrone's resilience. Gormley was defiant and Stephen O'Neill came on to kick two good scores.

Dublin were content to foul to stop momentum and referee Joe McQuillan was content to allow it to happen without resorting to yellow cards.

That gave the Dubs the freedom to continue the practice until the end -- more evidence of their ruthless pursuit of ultimate glory.

Scorers -- Dublin: D Connolly 0-7, B Brogan 0-5 (1f), A Brogan 0-3, S Cluxton (1 '45,' 1f), P Flynn 0-2 each, D Bastick, B Cullen, B Cahill 0-1 each. Tyrone: S Cavanagh (3f), M Penrose (3f) 0-4 each, M Donnelly, Stephen O'Neill 0-2 each, B Dooher, P Harte (f), E McGinley 0-1 each.

Dublin -- S Cluxton 8; M Fitzsimons 7, R O'Carroll 7, C O'Sullivan 8; J McCarthy 8, G Brennan 8, K Nolan 7; D Bastick 8, MD Macauley 8; P Flynn 9, A Brogan 9, B Cullen 6; B Cahill 7, D Connolly 9, B Brogan 8. Subs: R McConnell 6 for Macauley (58), K McManamon for Flynn (65), E Fennell for Bastick (69), P McMahon for Nolan (70).

Tyrone -- P McConnell 8; M Swift 6, Joe McMahon 6, Justin McMahon 5; Sean O'Neill 5, C Gormley 7, P Jordan 6; K Hughes 6, S Cavanagh 6; C Cavanagh 5, B McGuigan 6, P Harte 5; M Penrose 6, M Donnelly 6, O Mulligan 5. Subs: D Carlin 6 for Justin McMahon (h-t), B Dooher 7 for McGuigan (h-t), Stephen O'Neill 8 for Harte (43), E McGinley 6 for Hughes (53), A Cassidy 5 for C Cavanagh (53).

Ref -- J McQuillan (Cavan).

Irish Independent

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