Monday 19 August 2019

A spicy rivalry devalued by the phoniest of wars

Mickey Harte. Photo: Sportsfile
Mickey Harte. Photo: Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

It's difficult enough to figure out how a game between two teams for whom victory is everything will unfold, but there are so many complicating sub-plots to this particular Tyrone-Dublin clash that tossing a coin seems as good a method as any to predict a winner.

This should not be happening so late in the championship. It's the weekend before the All-Ireland semi-finals, yet two of the top contenders are lined up for the phoniest of wars.

That devalues the championship, just as the non-event between Cork and Roscommon in Páirc Uí Rinn does. A dead rubber in August is an embarrassing sham. Tyrone v Dublin has been one of the great rivalries of the last 25 years, with every game up to now important to both. This one isn't.

Both are already in the semi-finals, so all that's at stake is the psychological edge that comes from winning. Of course, its relevance depends on the teams Jim Gavin and Mickey Harte choose to deploy. If one, or both, opts against fielding their best 15, then no psychological edge will accrue, irrespective of the outcome.

And since we won't know until just before throw-in (published teams mean nothing nowadays as the GAA persists in letting managers away with fooling the public) what the starting line-ups will be, predicting the outcome makes a shot in the dark look like a dead cert.

As for which squad would benefit more from winning, there's no definitive answer either. The argument that Dublin don't want their unbeaten five-year championship run broken appears plausible, but if Gavin fields a largely second-string team, then what will it matter if they lose?

However, if they were to win with a weakened team against a full-strength Tyrone outfit, it would certainly reinforce their sense of well-being ahead of the first major test of the season next weekend.

Many Tyrone supporters believe that winning would be hugely beneficial, but that only applies if Dublin have their top team out.

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Both Gavin and Harte will know by this evening the order in which two from Kerry, Mayo and Donegal enter the semi-finals.

Tomorrow's winners face second-placed from that group, but that really doesn't matter.

There's little between the trio so whoever wins between Dublin and Tyrone won't feel there's any advantage in playing the runners-up from the other side. That's how false the background to this game really is. So who will win?

Verdict: Dublin

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