Tuesday 20 February 2018

Buoyant Blues leave Tyrone chasing shadows

Dublin 2-17 Tyrone 0-11

Con O’Callaghan rifles home Dublin’s opening goal during the opening minutes of yesterday’s All-Ireland SFC semi-final against Tyrone. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Con O’Callaghan rifles home Dublin’s opening goal during the opening minutes of yesterday’s All-Ireland SFC semi-final against Tyrone. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Perfection is never attainable in team sports but there are occasions when it comes fairly close.

Yesterday was one of them as Dublin delivered an awesome performance, which left Tyrone much further behind in real terms than the final scoreline suggests.

Kevin McManamon of Dublin in action against Pádraig Hampsey of Tyrone. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Kevin McManamon of Dublin in action against Pádraig Hampsey of Tyrone. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Dublin could have had three more goals in the second half but Tyrone escaped as Jack McCaffrey drove wide from a golden opportunity, Kevin McManamon's drive hit the crossbar, and Paul Flynn's effort was blocked.

All this while Jim Gavin's All-Ireland treble-chasers appeared to be playing well within themselves, a luxury which they enjoyed from as early as the fifth minute when Con O'Callaghan bounded through for their first goal.

He was given so much room that Mickey Harte, who would have spent many hours structuring his defensive set-up in an attempt to provide goalkeeper Niall Morgan with maximum security, surely sensed the worst.

Non-existent

If Dublin could find a way through so early on, what hope was there of containing them over the next 65 minutes? Very little, but even the most pessimistic Tyrone supporters would not have envisaged the depth of misery which lay ahead.

Paul Mannion of Dublin in action against Pádraig Hampsey of Tyrone. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Paul Mannion of Dublin in action against Pádraig Hampsey of Tyrone. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Trailing by 1-4 to 0-2 after 12 minutes, Tyrone were faced with a choice. Would they persist with a formation that often saw all except Mark Bradley in their defensive half, or would they take a chance with a more orthodox line-up?

Obviously, most of the preparatory work involved the former so it would have been difficult to adjust while also trying to cope with the sheer weight of momentum that Dublin had generated.

Yet, once they fell five points behind, their prospects of grinding their way back into contention were virtually non-existent. It left them with the worst of both worlds, a situation that prevailed all afternoon before David Coldrick finally ended their torture.

Whatever chance Tyrone had of inflicting a first championship defeat on Dublin since the 2014 All-Ireland semi-final, it required a good start. When that failed to materialise, there was no way back, something they would have realised by the end of the first quarter, leaving them facing a long, lonely afternoon.

Con O'Callaghan of Dublin in action against Tiernan McCann of Tyrone. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Con O'Callaghan of Dublin in action against Tiernan McCann of Tyrone. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

They trailed by 1-9 to 0-5 at half-time, another margin that did not reflect Dublin's superiority. There were several passages of play in the first half when Dublin retained possession for periods of between one and two minutes, passing leisurely across the pitch just past midfield as Tyrone's masses lined up inside the '45'.

It was all very comfortable for Dublin as Ciarán Kilkenny led a probing policy which had patience at its core. Sustained by a sizeable lead, they were happy with a keep-ball game for as long as it took to work into a shooting position. Meanwhile, Tyrone were expending vast quantities of energy, not in pursuit of scores but in tracking opponents who were totally at ease with the possession game.

It was more of the same in the second half. Tyrone pushed up on Stephen Cluxton's kick-outs early on but once Paul Mannion and Jack McCaffrey, two of Dublin's main men, kicked a point each, the only remaining item on the agenda was the extent of the winning margin.

Gavin began his rotation in the 45th minute, despatching Flynn and McManamon, both of whom did well, into the attack and continued as judicious intervals as Darren Daly, Eoghan O'Gara, Eric Lowndes and Diarmuid Connolly joined the action.

Connolly's arrival at the start of stoppage time for his first action since the Leinster quarter-final win over Carlow, drew one of the biggest cheers of the day from Dublin supporters, who were already more than pleased with what they had witnessed.

Con O'Callaghan of Dublin shoots despite the best efforts of Tyrone captain Seán Cavanagh. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Con O'Callaghan of Dublin shoots despite the best efforts of Tyrone captain Seán Cavanagh. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

However, giving Connolly so little time to reacclimatise after being out through suspension since early June suggests that he won't be starting in the All-Ireland final but then neither will some other big names.

Former Footballer of the Year award winners Bernard Brogan and Michael Darragh Macauley saw no action yesterday, underlining the riches at Gavin's disposal.

Harte was playing with a much weaker hand than appeared to be the case after four easy wins en route to the semi-final. However, they were all against fellow Ulster opposition, raising serious questions about the standard of the game in the north.

It runs a very competitive championship but their leading trio of recent times, Tyrone, Monaghan and Donegal, made no impression this year once they came up against strong opposition from the other provinces.

Tyrone and Monaghan lost to Dublin while Donegal were demolished by Galway, whose were subsequently well-beaten by Kerry.

Still, despite the pre-match doubts about Tyrone's real worth, it was felt that their traditional doggedness would keep them in the game as viable contenders for most of the way.

Confidence

However, once they conceded the early goal, their confidence appeared to ebb away. It was as if they recognised they were out of their depth and could do nothing to correct it.

They couldn't get close enough to Dublin to land telling tackles, which must have been the ultimate in frustration. The absence of close physical exchanges was perfectly illustrated in the first 15 minutes of the second half which featured only two frees - one for either side.

Even the most low-key challenge game would have more one-on-one contests but with Dublin controlling possession and Tyrone unable to get at them, the pace dropped to walking levels on occasions.

Dublin's lead stood at six points after 63 minutes but their control ratio was much higher and, as if to flash out a warning to Mayo ahead of the final, they increased the strike rate late on, adding 1-3.

The goal came from O'Gara, who also added a point before Tyrone had a late chance of a goal from the penalty spot. Typical of their miserable day, they made nothing of it as Harte's poor shot was saved by Stephen Cluxton.

Scorers - Dublin: D Rock 0-5 (4f); C O'Callaghan 1-2; E O'Gara 1-1; P Flynn 0-3; P Andrews 0-2; C Kilkenny, B Fenton, P Mannion, J McCaffrey 0-1 each. Tyrone: P Harte 0-4 (3f), C Cavanagh, N Sludden 0-2 each, S Cavanagh (f), T McCann, D McClure 0-1 each.

Dublin: S Cluxton; J Cooper, M Fitzsimons, P McMahon; C O'Sullivan, J Small, J McCaffrey; B Fenton, J McCarthy; N Scully, C O'Callaghan, C Kilkenny; P Mannion, P Andrews, D Rock. Subs: P Flynn for Scully (45), K McManamon for Andrews (45), D Daly for Small (52), E O'Gara for Rock (62), E Lowndes for Mannion (66), D Connolly for O'Callaghan (70).

Tyrone: N Morgan; C McCarron, R McNamee, A McCrory; T McCann, P Hampsey, P Harte; C Cavanagh, C McCann; D Mulgrew, N Sludden, K McGeary; M Bradley, S Cavanagh, M Donnelly. Subs: D McClure for C McCann (30), R Brennan for McGeary (ht), D McCurry for Mulgrew (42), R O'Neill for Bradley (49), C Meyler for S Cavanagh (55), P McNulty for McNamee (60).

Ref - D Coldrick (Meath).

 

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