Wednesday 17 January 2018

Dublin book All Ireland final date with Mayo following thumping win over Tyrone

Dublin 2-17 Tyrone 0-11

Con O'Callaghan of Dublin scores his side's first goal past Tyrone goalkeeper Niall Morgan
Con O'Callaghan of Dublin scores his side's first goal past Tyrone goalkeeper Niall Morgan

Sean McGoldrick in Croke Park

Dublin remain on course for a historic hat-trick of All-Ireland titles after demolishing the challenge of Ulster champions Tyrone in the second All-Ireland semi-final at Croke Park before a sell-out attendance of over 82,000.

So, for third time in four seasons and for the second year in a row Dublin will take on Mayo in the All-Ireland decider in three weeks' time.

Nobody could have anticipated just how easy this victory was for Jim Gavin's side.

A Con O'Callaghan goal in the fifth minute set the tone for a totally dominant first-half performance by Dublin which surely spells the end of the blanket defence and possibly the managerial career of Tyrone boss Mickey Harte.

Dublin had their place in the All-Ireland decider wrapped up at half time when they led 1-9 to 0-5 and they pressed their foot on the accelerator again in the closing minutes with a second goal from substitute Eoghan O'Gara, set up by two other substitutes in Darren Daly and Eric Lowndes.

The biggest cheer of the afternoon was reserved for the introduction of Diarmuid Connolly in the last minute of normal time and the fans on Hill 16 had even more to celebrate when Stephen Cluxton saved a Peter Harte penalty in injury time.

Kevin McManamon of Dublin kicks a shot on goal off the crossbar as Rory Brennan of Tyrone looks on
Kevin McManamon of Dublin kicks a shot on goal off the crossbar as Rory Brennan of Tyrone looks on

Dublin had 12 points to spare at the final whistle but even that margin didn't fully reflect their dominance. They only kicked two wides in what was a textbook performance on how to beat a team which pulls so many players back into defence and hands the ball to the opposition.

Ciaran Kilkenny had 62 possessions and orchestrated the Dublin forward line which in the first half was was simply breathtaking.

Much of the romance in the next few week will surround Mayo. But the harsh reality is that they have never beaten Dublin in an All-Ireland final, though they did knock the Dubs out of the title race at the semi-final stage in 2006 and 2012.

But as has been the case all summer it's Dublin's All-Ireland to lose. Tyrone became the latest in a long line of pretenders stretching back nearly three seasons who have come up short against Jim Gavin's team in championship football.

Save for the 2014 All-Ireland semi-final loss to Donegal, Gavin has an unblemished championship record in his five season in charge.

Aside from draws against Mayo in the 2015 semi-final and last year's final, Dublin have now won 17 championship games on the spin, a truly ground-breaking achievement.

And, one suspects, the best has yet to come. This looks a very special team.

Dublin opted not to start Diarmuid Connolly; instead Niall Scully replaced Eric Lowndes. It mattered little, however, as the defending title holders systematically dismantled Tyrone in a manner which was scarcely believable.

But it happened; from a Tyrone perspective it resembled a slow train crash and arguably the death of the blanket defence. It was a classic case of the old adage that if you hand quality players enough of the ball they will do damage.

Dublin's Diarmuid Connolly warms up
Dublin's Diarmuid Connolly warms up

Tyrone's game-plan unravelled as early as the fifth minute when Niall Sludden was stripped of possession as the whole team went on the offensive leaving huge gaps behind them. It was their worst nightmare.

The ball was spun to Con O'Callaghan who drove forward and comfortably rounded Colm Cavanagh and blasted an unstoppable stop past Niall Morgan.

It was only the second goal that Tyrone had conceded this season but already their game-plan was in tatters.

Still, they insisted on pulling 14 players behind the ball. Mark Bradley was left in splendid isolation – he was marked by Michael Fitzsimons. So Dublin had the luxury of deploying two sweepers, Jonny Cooper and Cian O'Sullivan, who at times acted like a quarter back, as Dublin recycled the ball in search of an opening.

Ultimately it was the forwards who stole the show in what was arguably the best ever 35 minutes of football produced by Dublin in modern times.

Twenty-year-old Con O'Callaghan was the star, hitting 1-2 despite the efforts initially of Padraig Hampsey and later Ronan McNamee. The movement, work-rate and shot selection of the entire unit was exemplary as they tore Tyrone's blanket defence to shreds.

Paddy Andrews chipped in with 0-2 from play and although neither scored, the work-rate of Scully and in particular Paul Mannion was superb – on three occasions the latter stripped Tyrone players of possession deep in the Dublin half.

Tyrone were a sorry mess; apart from Colm Cavanagh and Peter Harte – both of whom scored points from play – the remainder of the side failed to make a meaningful contribution.

The poverty of their effort is summed up by the fact that none of their forwards scored from play in the first half and Dublin fully deserved their seven-point interval lead (1-9; 0-5)

Even Homer nods occasionally and Stephen Cluxton's first two kick outs in the second half were won by Tyrone but they couldn't make either chance count with substitute Declan McClure and a subdued Sean Cavanagh kicking wides to bring their tally to six.

Even though the stadium was full, the game was been played in virtual silence. Finally in the 42nd minute Niall Sludden became the first Tyrone forward to score from play but at the other end Paul Mannion and Jack McCaffrey kept the scoreboard ticking over for the Dubs.

Tyrone did show some improvement and more ambition but they had a mountain to climb. They surrendered possession far too cheaply as Dublin started to run their bench with the introduction of Paul Flynn and Kevin McManamon, with latter driving a brilliant effort off the crossbar in the 45th minute.

Jack McCaffrey missed an even better chance of a goal seven minutes later as Dublin split open the Tyrone defence once again.

Sean Cavanagh bowed out of inter county football in the 55th minute after 89 championship appearances when he became the fourth Tyrone forward to be replaced in the second half.

Ironically, Tyrone enjoyed their most productive spell immediately afterwards, kicking three points on the spin from a Harte free, Colm Cavanagh and Niall Sludden to cut the deficit to six points.

And really that's all Tyrone could hope for at this stage. Dean Rock was pulled off after sending a soft shot into the arms of Niall Morgan which ended with a point from substitute Declan McClure at the other end.

But it mattered little and they were outscored 1-4 to 0-1 in the final 15 minutes. So by the time the final whistle sounded, Dublin were 12 points clear with substitutes Paul Flynn and Eoghan O'Gara contributing 1-4 between them, four points more than the entire Tyrone attack.

It was Tyrone's worst performance and worst result at Croke Park in championship football since going down to Dublin in the 2011 All-Ireland quarter final – a win which launched them into a different orbit.

And the evidence now suggests they are now moving even further away from the pack. Mayo beware!

Dublin: S Cluxton; P McMahon, C O'Sullivan, M Fitzsimons; J Cooper, J Small, J McCaffrey (0-1); B Fenton (0-1), J McCarthy; C Kilkenny (0-1), C O'Callaghan (1-2), N Scully, P Mannion (0-1), P Andrews (0-2), D Rock (0-5, 4f). Subs: P Flynn (0-3) for Scully 45m; K McManamon for Andrews 45m, D Daly for Small 52m, E O'Gara (1-1) for D Rock 63m, E Lowdnes for Mannion 66m, D Connolly for O'Callaghan 71m.

Tyrone: N Morgan; A McCrory, R McNamee, C McCarron; T McCann (0-1), P Hampsey, P Harte (0-4, 3f) C Cavanagh (0-2), C McCann; D Mulgrew, N Sludden (0-2), K McGeary; M Bradley, S Cavanagh (0-1,1f), M Donnelly. Subs: D McClure (0-1) for McCann 29m; R Brennan for McGeary ht; D McCurry for Mulgrew 42m, R O'Neill for Bradley 49m; C Myler for S Cavanagh 55m, P McNulty for McNamee 60m

Referee: D Goldrick (Meath)

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