Saturday 24 August 2019

Colm O'Rourke: 'Tyrone have delivered a very loud message but the Dubs won't lose any sleep'

Ronan McNamee of Tyrone in action against Cian Mackey of Cavan
Ronan McNamee of Tyrone in action against Cian Mackey of Cavan
Colm O'Rourke

Colm O'Rourke

This was not a game in the proper sense of the word. The match was over after 20 minutes and Tyrone played out time thereafter. Cavan were too laboured and predictable in moving the ball. Tyrone broke forward at pace and bored holes very easily in a Cavan defence that had plenty of numbers back but was never able to lay a hand on a fast moving, creative attack.

As a spectacle it was less than interesting or inspiring — hand-pass, hand-pass, hand-pass and then a shot for a point. Kicking was reduced to kick-outs and shots for points, nearly everything else was a hand-pass.

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Cavan had plenty of the ball as Tyrone allowed them to take all their kick-outs short. But once Cavan's ball-carrier crossed the half-way line, they ran into a posse of Tyrone players who turned the ball over easily and then had far too much pace on the counter attack. From early on there were a lot of Cavan players with their tongues out and hands on hips as Tyrone attacked from all angles — at one stage scoring seven points in a row.

If this was old Tyrone in action with a heavy reliance on a massed defence, there are also subtle changes. With Cathal McShane now the head of the attack, Darren McCurry has been freed up to buzz around further outfield. He kicked three in a row at one point and Cavan's backs could not get near him.

Jason McLoughlin was pulled ashore early on. Backs are usually disappointed when they are substituted, but in his case McLoughlin might have been relieved.

Cavan tried to press up on the Tyrone kick-out but Niall Morgan kicked long and generally found his man. It meant that the attacks started farther up the field and Tyrone players were ruthless in penetration and supremely  accurate in execution.

Ben McDonnell of Tyrone shoots to score his side's only goal during yesterday's match against Cavan in Clones. Photo: Ben McShane/Sportsfile
Ben McDonnell of Tyrone shoots to score his side's only goal during yesterday's match against Cavan in Clones. Photo: Ben McShane/Sportsfile

It turned into a turkey shoot and the umpires were reaching for their flags early once Tyrone were lining up a shot as they almost invariably hit the target. There is little distinction between Tyrone's backs and their forwards as they are all able to take a score.

The idiotic nature of the implementation of the black card rule was again in evidence. Last week John Heslin of Westmeath was black-carded for a nothing offence; yesterday Colm Cavanagh got a yellow for a stone-wall black. As if to balance the books, Conor Moynagh then received the same sanction for another, even more blatant, body check. Peter Harte got a black late in the game; it was a really bad decision and made a further joke of a completely flawed system.

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Tyrone now turn their minds to bigger things. If they beat Roscommon next weekend and Cork in Croke Park a week later they will be in the All-Ireland semi-finals irrespective of what happens against Dublin.

The slip-up against Donegal was only a very temporary setback and anyway, did anyone really think they would end up anywhere else? 

Are there three teams better than Tyrone? Never mind eight? Yet their style of play has come up short against Dublin and the definition of madness is to keep doing the same thing while hoping for a different result. Whether doing what they are doing will be sufficient, only time will tell, but apart from Donegal and Dublin there is unlikely to be another team to beat Tyrone.

This was a very tame end to the year for Cavan. They brought no energy to the game and were overpowered for speed, strength and skill. The Mickey Graham project has hit a wall and even if Cavan had great wins over Monaghan and Armagh, the games against Donegal and Tyrone have showed where Cavan are really at. They are not good enough for the Super 8. In this match, their limitations were cruelly exposed. They never got enough players ahead of the ball and they must wonder how they could score 23 points against Armagh and look so limited here.

Part of the reason is that Tyrone got their match-ups right and Gearoid McKiernan and Dara McVeety were completely shut out of the game. From half-time on the huge Cavan support were heading for home, the customary traffic jams around Clones eased by the excellence of Tyrone's play. 

Dublin and Tyrone will be the game of the Super 8. Tyrone brought in the sidelines last year in a bid to make life more difficult for the Dubs. Mickey Harte should make the pitch wider this time as Tyrone have plenty of pace to exploit a big open pitch.

Yet all teams have looked impressive until the big dog appeared. Tyrone have delivered a very loud message but the Dubs won't lose any sleep.

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