Saturday 25 May 2019

Joe Brolly: 'Tyrone were excellent and comfortable - and they've finally realised how to expose Dublin'

Tyrone's Cathal McShane and Michael McKernan. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Tyrone's Cathal McShane and Michael McKernan. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Joe Brolly

Joe Brolly

This was an excellent, comfortable victory for Tyrone. There was only one brief moment in the game when the Dubs looked like winning.

That was in the fourth minute, when Cormac Costello scored yet another blistering solo goal. The boy is the embodiment of the great Sean O'Neill's advice, "Take your goals and the points will come." 

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Tyrone's victory was based on their early long kicking game, which has transformed them. They will drink their green beer in the pubs of Tyrone today, happy in the conviction that after five years of soloing and hand-passing up their own arses, they are finally ready to start a serious assault on Sam.

First half 1st minute: Kieran McGeary kicks an early, long, diagonal ball in to Mattie Donnelly, who has plenty of time to turn, dummy and kick it over. 0-1 to 0-0

8th minute: Another early long, diagonal ball is kicked in to Donnelly, who again has plenty of time to turn, dummy and pop another point over. A carbon copy of Tyrone's first score. 0-2 to 1-0

13th minute: Cathal McShane has now switched with Donnelly. An early long ball is kicked in to him at the diagonal, he wins it and is fouled for an easy tap over free. 1-0 to 0-3

18th minute: Huge, very early long ball kicked in diagonally on top of Donnelly and McShane. Their defenders are at sixes and sevens. Donnelly flicks it down to McShane. Frank Burns steams in to the far post for what looks a simple palmed goal, only for McShane to hand-pass the ball too far in front of him.

20th minute: Another early long-range kick-pass to McShane, who has plenty of time to gather, turn and score. 1-3 to 1-2

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23rd minute: Niall Morgan kicks a superb, huge long ball into Niall Sludden, who is fouled on the 14 for another easy free. 1-4 to 1-2

29th minute: Another early long ball to McShane for an easy, tap over mark. 1-5 to 1-3

Second half: 35th minute: Long early diagonal ball into McShane, who catches and points easily. 1-8 to 1-5

40th minute: Huge early kick-pass into McShane, who works it back out. Richie Donnelly kicks the point, with the Dublin defenders all over the place.

44th minute: Another early long ball to Mattie Donnelly on the 14. He catches, turns and points easily. 1-11 to 1-8

55th minute: Long early kick-pass from the excellent Kieran McGeary to Peter Harte for an easy point from the mark. 1-13 to 1-9

60th minute: Long early kick-pass to McShane for another easy mark and point. 1-14 to 1-9

I have been saying for years that Tyrone need to switch to a kicking game. As Mayo have shown, this is what troubles Dublin since they play man to man, only dropping the sweeper at the last minute.

With Tyrone moving the ball so quickly, Dublin were continuously isolated one v one. It is apparent a lot of work has gone into this new strategy and yesterday, it looked great.

Tyrone's match-ups were also right. Niall Scully was neutralised by Conor Meyler, who is his equal as an athlete, and was eventually taken off. Brian Fenton was man-marked by Ryan Kennedy, copying Kerry's successful use of Jack Barry to negate Fenton.

With Tyrone deploying a revolving target man on the edge of the square and pushing up further into the attack than they have done since Jimmy McGuinness terrified Mickey Harte into abandoning Tyrone's traditional attacking principles, the Dubs were continually turning and running back towards their own goals.

The final piece of the jigsaw was that Tyrone adopted the Dublin defensive system, tracking their men one v one then dropping a sweeper as the attack advanced, which worked very well for Kerry against the Dubs a few weeks ago.

The most interesting thing about this game was that in spite of the fact that Dublin had an extra man, they scored only one point (from a free) in the final 16 minutes.

In that last quarter, their normal composure deserted them. They looked panicky. They made poor decisions. McCarthy kicked a bad wide, Mannion kicked a ball up in the air, they turned over the ball five times. Kevin McManamon touched the ball on the ground. Jonny Cooper gave an atrocious foot-pass straight to a Tyrone man, then held his head in his hands. All most un-Dublin-like.

Tyrone have pierced the veil of invincibility. They succeeded in making Dublin look predictable, even plodding. The Dubs have become expert at beating blanket defensive teams, who sit back in a zonal formation and move the ball slowly forward with hand-passes.

The penny has finally dropped with Tyrone. Long early ball will set you free.

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