Tyrone have grown into a proper team of talented footballers with a bright future
Tyrone were not bothered about sentiment in Croke Park on Saturday evening. They acted with the calm efficiency of a German car as they throttled Mayo in much the same way as they had filleted Kerry in the semi-final. In doing so they completed the most remarkable year for any team in the history of this great game.
They did their talking on the pitch when they were getting plenty of stick off it. They don’t need to say anything more. A team who were committed to each other and a great cause were just too good for Mayo. Same old story for Mayo, who put in every ounce of their being, but came up short again.
It wasn’t as if Mayo did not get chances and Ryan O’Donoghue’s penalty miss was a major turning point. Yet Tyrone were so calm in their execution that it was hard to see them getting beaten. Setbacks are there to be overcome as they play like a team who are comfortable within themselves and really believe in their management group.
Apart from a marked difference in handling skills, Tyrone had a kicking game. They were not afraid to let it in and Cathal McShane’s goal was route one, even if well directed. Conn Kilpatrick had a magnificent catch for the second goal and then the passes ended up with Darren McCurry for a simple tap-in. It showed Tyrone at their ruthless best, when a goal chance presented itself they went for the kill.
By contrast, Mayo had no kicking game. They soloed through the middle and were turned over or had to turn back repeatedly. In the first half alone Tyrone scored five points from turnovers, the lesson of the Kerry game was not learned by Mayo. They had only one real forward in Tommy Conroy, who spent far too much time away from goal in the second half, while Tyrone had a variety of men who could both score and set them up. Aidan O’Shea made no impact, a few short hand-passes and then getting the returns, but nothing to bother Tyrone in the slightest.
Mayo relied on defenders like Paddy Durcan, Lee Keegan and Stephen Coen to drive through the middle and set up scores, it is no substitute for class forwards. Tyrone had those, Darren McCurry was too hot to handle for Pádraig O’Hora and Niall Sludden was a constant menace. When it came to subs Tyrone won the contest hands down as well. When Cathal McShane comes on you could put up a sign to say there is a goal coming.
His flick was delightful off another high ball but it summed up Rob Hennelly as a goalkeeper. He does a lot of things well, but high balls are not his forté. If it was at the other end, Niall Morgan would have taken a forward out of it and got the ball too. Darragh Canavan came on to add a little bit of sublety. He is a lovely player and ‘Peter the Great’ is not the only hero in the Canavan house now.
This win must also make Conor McKenna very contented with life. He made the decision to leave Aussie rules, with a nice lifestyle and a big wage packet, because he wanted to play and win an All-Ireland with Tyrone. He can sleep easily now. He was a proper star in Melbourne but there is no debate now on whether he made the right decision to give it all up for the red hand.
This is also an immediate endorsement of Brian Dooher and Feargal Logan. It is no insult to Mickey Harte to say that Tyrone had gone stale and predictable on his watch, but it would be stretching it to think he would have won another All-Ireland. Tyrone now play a more attractive and winning style. The long ball is a powerful weapon when it is used properly and Tyrone have so much skill in catching and kicking that once unleashed it was hard to stop.
An even greater accomplishment for Tyrone is to come back from the hiding in the League in Killarney to claim this title. That showed remarkable courage and individual responsibility.
It is also noticeable that the new management have encouraged a more independent thinking group and they can think and talk without worrying about the whole world being against them. That sort of paranoia only works for a while and Tyrone are much better now without a complete siege mentality, even if that is no harm occasionally.
In terms of heroes they were sprinkled all over the pitch, starting with Niall Morgan, Pádraig Hampsey, Frank Burns, Kieran McGeary, Peter Harte, Conn Kilpatrick, Conor Meyler, Niall Sludden and of course McCurry, who is hard to keep down for any length of time. And this without Mattie Donnelly firing.
The road home for Mayo is, as always, long and sad. They know it well now. A few weeks to mull it over and then they will start from scratch again. That is what they are good at. At least this time there wasn’t just a point in it or some hard luck story. Tyrone were a good bit better both individually and as a team. Mayo overwhelmed Dublin with sheer passion, but this was not a tactic that was going to work against a team with a surplus in that area, but who also have far more class players than Mayo. The cream always rises to the top.
The concerns about Mayo’s ability to score were also shown to be real. Kevin McLoughlin and Diarmuid O’Connor battered away with real heart, but they needed a few others who could calmly take scores. They were seriously deficient in that department.
Tyrone are now kings of the world with a relatively young and exciting team. They are likely to get better and a lot of their good players are in the right part of the field — attack. It is almost impossible to win an All-Ireland with good backs and lesser forwards. Mayo have found that out repeatedly.
Once Tyrone got in front of Mayo in the second half and were able to counter-attack they looked a very composed, skillful outfit who could have won by more. Tyrone may have left Europe but they have also left everyone else in Ireland behind them. A proper team of talented footballers with a very bright future.