Saturday 25 January 2020

Alan Brogan: I was shocked at how poor Tyrone were

Pádraig McNulty of Tyrone after the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final match between Dublin and Tyrone at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Pádraig McNulty of Tyrone after the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final match between Dublin and Tyrone at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Alan Brogan

PART of me felt for Seán Cavanagh yesterday.

It’s sad to see a footballer like him finish his career like that.

Worse again to see Kieran Donaghy exit the inter-county stage like he did on Saturday evening – if that does prove to be his last act in a Kerry jersey.

It brought home to me again just how lucky I was to sign off by winning an All-Ireland and scoring a point in the 2015 final.

You don’t get to write your own endings in sport and after a career as brilliant as those two have had, both of their exits seem a bit unfair.

Cavanagh tried as hard as he could yesterday.

Tyrone lacked spark and he endeavoured to provide it but where his mind was willing, the body just wasn’t able any more.

We’ve seen Cavanagh countless times take players on the outside, go on a solo run and stick a score over the bar.

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But when the gas is gone, it’s gone.

I was shocked by Tyrone yesterday.

We knew they would set up like that but we also thought they would be much more incisive on the counter attack.

Even their defensive structure lacked intensity and Dublin poured through them alarmingly easy.


Con O’Callaghan’s goal, well taken though it obviously was, would never have happened against the Tyrone team I played against. They just wouldn’t let you through like that.

And mostly, Tyrone defended too deep.

It wasn’t until a Dublin player hit the Tyrone ’45 that  an opposition player tried to lay a hand on them.

If you allow Dublin possession like that and allow them to build up a head of steam, they’ll flatten you. And that’s exactly what happened.

But even allowing for all the tactical aspects of Tyrone’s game, I was still amazed at how easy it was for Dublin.

When Dublin counter-attacked, Tyrone were chasing, rather than sitting waiting for them.

At times, some of the movement from Jack McCaffrey, James McCarthy and Con O’Callaghan was very pacey and Dublin were so measured.

They just played in triangles with hand-passes and created scoring opportunities at will.

Colm Cavanagh was the only Tyrone player booked all day and that probably says it all.

Even when Dublin got inside the ’45, Tyrone never really turned them over. They hardly ever threatened to take it off the ball-carrier.

All the things we feared that Tyrone would do – send Dublin down blind alleys, crowd the man on the ball and swoop in and turn them over – none of it transpired.

You wonder too how they expected to beat Dublin without kick-passing the ball. I’d say you could count on the fingers of one hand how many times Tyrone kicked the ball in the Dublin ‘45.

If you’re going to beat Dublin, you need to try and create one-on-one opportunities.

And Tyrone never did that. They never threatened a goal either.

Even at that, it was a soft enough penalty, the sort you’d never see given in a tight game, or early on.

All week, we’d heard how Tyrone had added to the attacking side of their game. How they’d put up big scores and how they were ready to challenge the big guns.

But once Dublin stopped their runners, Tyrone didn’t really have anything else to offer.

Maybe it’s just that Dublin are that good. Maybe Dublin will go to the A  ll-Ireland final and dismantle a team that has already proven their credentials.

But Tyrone didn’t give us a chance to find out just how good they are.

We’re nearly getting bored following Dublin at this stage.

Whether Mayo are able to beat Dublin or not remains to be seen.

But they will definitely test them in ways Tyrone never got near yesterday.

Even when Tyrone tried to push up on the kick-outs, they didn’t really do it with any great level of conviction.

Conall McCann almost looked like he didn’t want to be part of the game.

He was laborious getting back and showed no real intent to go forward so part of me just thinks that Tyrone never really believed they were going to win this match.

As for Dublin, they look pacier than they were this time last year.

And James McCarthy’s move to midfield gives them another dimension.

He was making the runs early on yesterday and he’s very difficult to stop once he gets going.

Yesterday was a big statement from Con O’Callaghan also. He was excellent, particularly in the first half, and finished his goal really well.

Jim Gavin might be somewhat concerned now that they’re in an All-Ireland but haven’t been fully tested.

And Mayo will be a different proposition entirely.

They’ll kick more and they have an inside forward line of Cillian O’Connor, Andy Moran and Jason Doherty who have been immense as their long summer has found its way to September again.

So there’s an element of the unknown there still for Dublin. It’s a strange place to be, going into an All-Ireland final.


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