Monday 26 February 2018

Dublin's talent, Tyrone's tactics and the end for Sean Cavanagh - Five things we learned from Dublin's win

Tyrone's Seán Cavanagh with Dublin goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton following the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final match between Dublin and Tyrone at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Tyrone's Seán Cavanagh with Dublin goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton following the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final match between Dublin and Tyrone at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Dermot Crowe

Dublin's comprehensive 12-point win over Tyrone on Sunday will see Jim Gavin's side advance to their third consecutive All-Ireland final where they will once again meet Mayo in a repeat of last year's final.

The Jacks were sensational against Tyrone, with Con O'Callaghan having a massive game at centre-half -forward, while for Tyrone and Sean Cavanagh it may be the end of an era.

Dermot Crowe looks at five things we learned from Sunday's semi-final.

Is this the end for Tyrone?

Tyrone’s prospects of winning an All-Ireland in the immediate future look remote after this heavy defeat, which could have been even worse had Dublin finished some of their goal chances.

Winners of the last two Ulster titles, Tyrone were looking for the kind of performance that would confirm their emergence as a serious All-Ireland contender.

This had the opposite effect. They were never in contention, hopes a first semi final win since 2008 rapidly fading, and the magnitude of the loss will lead to questions about Mickey Harte’s future and the defensive game-plan which placed them in a tactical straitjacket once Dublin took an early lead. This will be a hard defeat to come back from.

Dublin pass with flying colours

This was expected to be Dublin's first serious examination after an easy run to the semi finals. Uncertainty about what kind of Dublin would turn up was soon cleared up as Jim Gavin and his backroom men got their tactics spot on and their players turned in one of their best performances of recent years.

John Small stuck obsessively to Peter Harte and Dublin tackled ferociously, forcing numerous turnovers.

They used the width of the pitch to loosen Tyrone’s structure and were patient enough to wait until the opportunity arose to break their defensive lines.

Their point kicking was also impeccable. One they got an early lead they were in the driving seat, being able to invite Tyrone out the field to try to win back the ball.

Seamless production

The match underlined more than ever Dublin’s pool of talent and the seamless transition that has been taking place without having any adverse impact on the team’s performance.

Con O’Callaghan, introduced to the side this year, came of age and crowned a fine performance with a brilliant goal in the fifth minute. When Tyrone spilled possession, Philly McMahon picked out O’Callaghan who, with a point or pass option on offer, had the confidence to go for the jugular by selling Ronan McNamee a dummy and sending a thunderous shot past Niall Morgan.

With Diarmuid Connolly not coming on until near the end of the match, to a huge roar, it showed the wealth of options enjoyed by Jim Gavin. Even a player of Connolly’s talent is not indispensable.

End of an era for Cavanagh

We have seen the last of Sean Cavanagh, the veteran All-Ireland winner, who announced his retirement afterwards. Cavanagh did not enjoy a happy ending, taken off after 54 minutes, somewhat harshly as he had received poor supply when moved into the full forward line in the second half.

Tyrone played with only Mark Bradley in their inside forward line in the first half but, seven points down, they needed to commit more players to attack in the second half.

Cavanagh was understandably frustrated by the poverty of the delivery, with the ball sent in too low for the most part and intercepted. Not an exit that befits a player of his calibre.

Dublin look primed for All-Ireland hat-trick

Beating Dublin may be beyond any county at this stage but Mayo will bring a different challenge in the final on September 17.

Tyrone’s ultra-defensive approach was shown, conclusively, as being capable of taking a team only so far. Dublin still found a way around it and then Tyrone had no effective Plan B to try to claw back the deficit.

The game also offered a poor impression of the Ulster Championship, with many of the teams departing the championship with heavy defeats. The province looks set for a lean spell. Dublin, though, are looking good for three in a row. It will take an incredible performance to deny them. 

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