Kevin Madden: Tyrone show a ruthless streak similar to Tyrone teams of the past - The Irish News
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Kevin Madden: Tyrone show a ruthless streak similar to Tyrone teams of the past

Ronan O'Neill celebrates the first of his two Tyrone goal

BACK in the noughties when Mickey Harte's teams were really in their pomp they were a completely ruthless outfit. Once they got on top of a team, with their foot on the throat, they never let up.

Although it took some time yesterday to get into their groove, Tyrone looked every bit a mirror of those sides, capable of putting a team to the sword. Capable of winning major honours.

Down will look back to the end of the first half with major regret. They will also rue the fact that it took them more than 15 minutes to register their first score of the second half.

By the time Ronan O'Neill came on to steal the show, the

Anglo-Celt was already signed, sealed and delivered.

It was evident after 20 minutes that Down had made the decision not to kick the long ball into Connaire Harrison.

In their victory over Monaghan, that particular outlet was crucial. I can understand that Tyrone's system was well equipped to deal with this and forewarned is often forearmed.

But what Down were left with was a running game and a mixed bag of pot-shots from long distance. Instead of exploring ways of making their own gameplan

work, I felt Down had already conceded that they wouldn't trouble Tyrone with early ball. It appeared that they allowed Tyrone to dictate how they would attack.

There were still times when the long kick-pass was on and it wasn't used.

Often the Down full-forward line was left vacant and the space left was crying out for runners to get ahead of the ball and provide some options.

Crucially, from a Down point of view, being solid at the back, coupled with some dreadful finishing from Tyrone, kept them in the game in the first half.

If you needed evidence that Joe McQuillan was going to ‘let the game go' it could be found in the statistic that the first scoreable free wasn't blown until the 28th minute and it was the only one converted in the first half.

I did think that the black cards for either side were very harsh. If this rule was introduced to eradicate cynicism then we need to

re-evaluate.

For example, if you compare the tackle Peter Turley (yellow card) made to stop Tiernan McCann to the two black card incidents then it is obvious the rule is both poorly interpreted and badly flawed.

The criticisms I've levelled at the door of Down equally apply to a Tyrone team who left Mark Bradley completely isolated up front, especially in the first half.

I sound like a broken record at this stage, but to beat a ‘big team' in Croke Park I feel Tyrone will need more depth and presence within their full-forward line. Down struggled on their own

kick-out at times. Once the Mournemen managed to get a

grip of the game at midfield towards the end of the first half they were looking good.

With all the momentum in their favour, the goal chance missed by Darragh O'Hanlon was a massive turning point.

The timing of his run was inch perfect, but he needed to either go with the outside of the boot or change the angle of his body position and use the instep instead.

Tyrone were very fortunate to go in at half-time two points up. The shooting problems that the Red Hands endured in the first half were experienced equally by Down in the second.

But in fairness to Tyrone, their economy in front of goal got so much better. A trio of points from Mark Bradley and the two McCanns – Tiernan and Conall –

put the game beyond reach and, at eight points up, it was game over.

It took Down 15 minutes to register their first score of the second half which was damning. By the time Ronan O'Neill's classy goals arrived it was just a case of ‘by how many.'

On the whole, it was a very disappointing final. But from a Tyrone perspective it was job done.

A job done in ruthless fashion.

ON the last day of the Allianz Football League, the Michael Quinlivan smash and grab show would have really hurt Kieran McGeeney and his players. Immediately after the gut-wrenching defeat, Tipperary captain Brian Fox tweeted a photo of himself, Quinlivan and a couple of team-mates with the caption: “Someone call the PSNI quick, there's been an Orchard raided by Michael Quinlivan.”

Talk about something coming back to bite you in the ass.

You can be sure the Armagh manager would have told them to bottle that raw emotion and not to forget how it made them feel, for a shot at redemption would not be too far around the corner.

Whether they'd actually get another crack at Tipp was a different story, but when it arrived it was obvious they were completely psyched.

That passion, hunger and intensity was evident throughout their play on Saturday in Thurles.

For me, the thing that really stood out about Armagh was the manic tackling of their forwards.

In the end, this honesty really stood by them and, in my opinion, tipped the game in their favour.

Not long after the Tipperary goal, Gavin McParland fought ferociously to turn a ball over which led to a free that Niall Grimley converted.

When Stefan Campbell came on, he chased lost causes like a man possessed and, indeed, the move that led to the goal was the result of some quality tackling back in defence.

Although far from a polished performance, I was really impressed by Armagh's willingness to kick the ball at every opportunity.

Aidan Forker, in particular, played with the head up every time and delivered some quality first time ball.

Although he was probably outshone by his outstanding midfield partner Niall Grimley for most of the game, Stephen Sheridan was arguably Armagh's most influential player when the game bubbled in the melting pot. The turn of foot he displayed and the composure to pick the pass turned a seemingly harmless attack into the move that would win the game for Armagh.

Gavin McParland had a terrific match, but it also took the class and experience of Jamie Clarke to seal the deal.

I was also very impressed by the young goalkeeper Blaine Hughes who not only displayed great confidence and execution kicking off either foot, but the ball he took from above his head at the death was crucial.

Tactically, Armagh looked much better than they have been for quite some time.

They tackled and pressed the ball higher up the pitch and, in doing so, allowed that raw emotion to materialise into a performance full of intensity. When the Armagh forwards are prepared to work that hard, an earlier press suits them much better than inviting the opposition into their half before engaging.

It seems the Orchard is well and truly stocked up again. Now ‘how do you like them apples?'

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