Wednesday 22 November 2017

Late rally extends Dubs' record

Dublin 0-10 Tyrone 1-7

Dublin's Eoghan O'Gara in action against Ronan McNamee of Tyrone during their Allianz Football League Division 1 Round 2 match at Croke Park. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Dublin's Eoghan O'Gara in action against Ronan McNamee of Tyrone during their Allianz Football League Division 1 Round 2 match at Croke Park. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Dermot Crowe

From somewhere Dublin dug it out and that was what they will take most satisfaction from: still unbeaten, two years and 31 matches on from the time Kerry turned them over in the league in Killarney. It is three years since they last lost in Croke Park. Tyrone almost ended that sequence last night in bitterly cold weather that could lure no more than 28,305 people from the warmth of their homes.

This was Tyrone as we knew them. Strong and unyielding at the back, putting up a wall the American President would approve of, through which Dublin tried in vain to pass. Midway through the first half Tiernan McCann took umbrage at James McCarthy's notions of a sally into Tyrone territory and picked up a black card. Tyrone were flinty and happy to raise the temperature. Fifteen minutes into the second half they lost Mark Bradley to a red card after an off the ball incident with Jonny Cooper. But they had some points in the bank by then, leading by five on two separate occasions, and almost held off a spirited Dublin recovery.

Niall Sludden sent over three points from play in a man-of-the-match performance on a night when fancy scores and deeds were in short supply. Of the starting Dublin attack only Ciaran Kilkenny scored from play. They finished with 14 men, too, when McCarthy was obliged to leave the field injured with a few minutes left and all their subs had been used up.

By then they were on the offensive, trying to save the game. Sludden's last point in the 49th minute pushed Tyrone back out to five clear, 1-7 to 0-5, but all the remaining scores came from Dublin, aided by six minutes of stoppage time. With the wind at their backs they attacked Tyrone and began whittling down their lead. Kilkenny scored a beautiful point. Brian Fenton hit a big score and Dean Rock added a few frees. But Tyrone were still one to the good until Rock saved Dublin with his final free, three minutes into added time, which sailed over from 48m after Mick Fitzsimmons had been fouled.

Tyrone's Cathal McShane battles with Dublin's Ciarán Kilkenny during their Allianz Football League Division 1 Round 2 match Photo: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
Tyrone's Cathal McShane battles with Dublin's Ciarán Kilkenny during their Allianz Football League Division 1 Round 2 match Photo: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

Tyrone will feel some element of disappointment that they didn't take both points but in the end they could have lost, because Dublin had all the momentum. That would have been unjust. With Mattie Donnelly unable to play due to concussion and the losses of McCann and Bradley adding to their woes, they will take a lot from this performance. Their last visit to Croke Park brought a heart-aching loss to Mayo in the All-Ireland quarter-finals, after the optimism generated by their first Ulster title in six years.

Sean Cavanagh came on at half time but one of his first contributions was to take down Paul Mannion four minutes into the second half, which gave Dublin a penalty. Declan McClure had just kicked Tyrone into a 0-6 to 0-3 lead but Rock missed the chance to level when his shot was well saved by Niall Morgan. Rock then reduced the lead to two points before Tyrone responded with the game's only goal in the 47th minute. Aidan McCrory, a late replacement for Jonathan Monroe, worked his way through the Dublin defence and found a gap to the goal past Stephen Cluxton. Their mood lift was quickly tempered when Bradley was dismissed but Tyrone's reputation for all-out defence meant the task facing Dublin was substantial.

In the first half Tyrone looked like they hadn't scored enough when playing with the wind. After leading 0-3 to 0-1 by the 13th minute they went 20 minutes without adding to it but finished the half more promisingly with two excellent strikes from Sludden, leaving them 0-6 to 0-4 ahead at half-time. Dublin's only first half scores from play came from Philly McMahon and Cooper. It was that kind of night. They sorely missed Diarmuid Connolly who was on club duty but not even Connolly would have enjoyed last night's match. Not one for the purist.

Scorers - Dublin: D Rock 0-6 (6f); P McMahon, C Kilkenny, J Cooper, B Fenton 0-1 each. Tyrone: A McCrory 1-0; N Sludden 0-3, P Harte 0-2 (2f), C Meyler, D McClure 0-1.

Dublin: S Cluxton; M Fitzsimons, P McMahon, J Cooper; J McCarthy, J Small, J McCaffrey; MD Macauley, B Fenton; C Basquel, C Kilkenny, N Scully; D Rock, E O'Gara, P Mannion. Subs: E Lowndes for Basquel (h-t); K McManamon for Macauley (44); C Reddin for Mannion (50); D Byrne for McCaffrey (51); J Whelan for Small (57); D Daly for Cooper (59).

Tyrone: N Morgan; P Hampsey, R McNamee, C McCarron; T McCann, A McCrory, J McMahon; C Cavanagh, D McClure; C Meyler, N Sludden, P Harte; D McCurry, C McShane, M Bradley. Subs: R Brennan for McCann (bc 17); S Cavanagh for McAhane (h-t); D Mulgrew for Meyler (50); C McCann for McCurry (62); P McNulty for McClure (72).

Dublin's Ciarán Kilkenny in action against Tyrone's Jonathan Monroe. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Dublin's Ciarán Kilkenny in action against Tyrone's Jonathan Monroe. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Referee: J McQuillan (Cavan)

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