Danny Hughes: Ruthless Dublin will have too many weapons for Tyrone in All-Ireland final duel
THE All-Ireland final between Dublin and Tyrone on September 2 may be a repeat of the classic 1995 final between the same counties, but the gulf in the abilities of both is much wider than it was then.
For Tyrone supporters, it may be hard to get excited about this one. Unlike 2003, 2005 and 2008, Tyrone will be going into this final as overwhelming underdogs.
Consequently, there may be a fear within the squad and the county which they haven’t experienced before.
This fear is the sum of the worst case scenario, which is a potential repeat of the performance of last year’s semi-final against Dublin which they lost by a dozen points. It is also natural for players to feel this way deep down.
The way to counter-act this fear is to embrace it and channel it into an anger to be unleashed on the first Sunday of September.
This doesn’t mean belting someone, rather aggression toward running hard, taking their chances, tackling and pushing a high line on Dublin kick-outs.
It means using the energy of those writing Tyrone’s chances off and making a real statement.
If Tyrone set up the same way, there is no doubt that a beating is an inevitability.
Indeed, the concentration each and every one of the Tyrone players will need to display for the 70-plus minutes of the final will be on a level they have never experienced before. And that is just to stay in the game.
This aspect of Gaelic football cannot be underestimated.
When the lungs have reached saturation point and the lactic acid levels in the muscles are overwhelming, being able to concentrate on pushing up on the kick-out or tracking an overlapping run is what will decide this next game’s outcome.
Tyrone are well-conditioned and indeed are probably best equipped at this time to compete with the Dubs.
Indeed, the Red Hands have been the team who have come closest to beating Dublin this year, with the three-point margin in the Super 8s viewed as a relative success when compared with last year’s semi-final trouncing.
Only Galway, beaten by four points in the National League final this year, have got within similar range of the Dubs. And then you see how Dublin made light work of the Tribe last weekend.
When you look at the Dubs’ record and when the Tyrone analysts sit down alongside their management in the next few weeks to plan for the final, the stark reality is that you have to go back to 2014 to see when the Dubs were last beaten. And let’s face it, a lot has changed since then.
Dublin were caught by Donegal that day. So you turn your attentions to the All-Ireland finals last year and those Mayo performances. How did Mayo manage to go toe-to-toe with Dublin?
This is the starting point and while Dublin ultimately prevailed, the outcome being yet another All-Ireland title, Tyrone could learn a lot from the way Mayo approached the game tactically.
The Red Hands should press higher up the field, probably higher than they would like to. If you are going to take a risk, make it a big one.
Tyrone also need to take every chance they get in front of goals.
Galway didn’t do that last Saturday, their efficiency just being over 50 per cent of chances taken.
Frank Burns carved open a glorious Tyrone goal chance early in the first half against Monaghan and, instead of slipping it to an available team-mate, he opted to take his own point.
A goal at that stage would have put Tyrone 1-4 to 0-1 up and may have caused Monaghan to panic and throw more caution to the wind.
This may have left more gaps for Tyrone runners, especially ‘over the top’, a tactic they seemed to enjoy early benefit from, planned or otherwise.
Back to that Galway game and had Eamonn Brannigan taken his penalty chance, the Tribesmen would have had a three-point lead on the Dubs at that stage in the first half.
Galway had momentum at that juncture and a decent level of possession, enough for them to live on, but they just didn’t make enough hay.
Brannigan never recovered from the penalty miss and neither did Galway, although they did keep in touch until in and around the 50th minute.
Dublin simply don’t do inefficiency. By now, the most overwhelming statistic from the first half against Galway was their 10 scores from 12 chances.
Two aspects to this.
Firstly, Dublin are dead-eye accurate. They have any amount of players who are willing and, more importantly, able to kick points from 35 or 40 metres from goal. They don’t take on shots when the percentages aren’t in their favour.
Secondly, the Galway pressure on the kicker, in contrast to the pressure Mayo exerted on Dublin during the 2017 final, just wasn’t good enough.
To exert this ongoing pressure demands serious levels of fitness and concentration. To exert this pressure in Croke Park takes a hell of a lot of practice into the bargain.
I don’t think people appreciate how vast the pitch or indeed the stadium is. You get this impression that, even at 30 metres from the Hill-side of Croke Park, it is far enough away from your goal when you are defending it to prevent a shot from being taken on. However, these Dublin players are so used to the dimensions of the field, they know when and where they can shoot from.
They are not afraid to take a pop and will work it around as necessary and just keep the scoreboard ticking over.
There is nothing as demoralising as breaking your back to score against the Dubs while, in contrast, this Dublin team seem to find it much easier to find the posts or the net.
The Dubs seem to have limitless options when they attack and arguably now choose the right pass without fail. Such is their culture, created by Jim Gavin, it seems that the most unselfish passes, such as those last weekend, end with a palmed ball to the net. Think back 10 years and Dublin players were ignoring those chances and each other, opting for a crack at individual glory themselves.
Should Tyrone find themselves in a three v two scenario in attack on September 2, displaying this unselfish trait will be a true test of how far they have come and indeed how far individuals are willing to put the team first.
While Tyrone now look forward, Monaghan will take some time to get over this semi-final.
It’s the story of too many chances missed and it is not hard to argue that, without Conor McManus, Monaghan would never have been there in the first place.
Unfortunately, however, the pressure McManus feels has a consequence – this being some wild shot selections late in the game when better decisions may have carried Monaghan through.
He isn’t alone here.
If there is an ominous lesson from any of this for Tyrone, it’s the fact that Dublin’s sheer ruthlessness in front of goal makes them nailed on certainties for four in-a-row and immortality