Tyrone will put their faith in the collective for a huge upset
I HAVE read a great deal on how Tyrone need to approach their All-Ireland SFC final against Dublin on September 2.
In today’s media landscape, the number of pundits, commentators and ex-players offering advice and their perspective is on an unprecedented scale.
This unsolicited advice may impact on Mickey Harte and to a lesser extent Jim Gavin, but I very much doubt either man will give it the time of day.
Mickey Harte is a man of process.
In the 2008 All-Ireland final, he counteracted the threats of Kieran Donaghy and Tommy Walsh by stationing Joe and Justin McMahon on them and dropping another player in front of the Kerry full-back line.
This defensive tactic worked a treat and Kerry were unable to change tack because they simply hadn’t planned for something like that – or needed to – until that point in the Championship.
Fail to plan and all that.
Mickey has rarely had to consider an attacking tactic in order to win a game of this magnitude before.
To beat Dublin, it is generally acknowledged that you have to go on the front foot against what appears an unbeatable team.
Simply employing defensive tactics hasn’t worked, with Dublin managing to work around anything and everything deployed at the back against them in the four Championships since 2014.
Will something akin to the Monaghan performance be enough from a performance and tactical viewpoint to secure a win for Tyrone? It is unlikely.
Yes, Tyrone can employ defensive tactics and stifle Dublin’s attack for a while.
Undoubtedly they have made progress since last year’s semi-final defeat to Dublin, and this was no more evident than in their performance in Healy Park in the Super 8s against the Dubs.
However, Tyrone will have to offer a new attacking tactic to win the final.
Tyrone’s team of 2003, 2005 and 2008 had no particular worries from an attacking perspective, with the one exception being in 2008 when Sean Cavanagh was placed in the full-forward line to add a bit more potency, although it must be noted that he rarely stayed there.
Tyrone don’t have the luxury of introducing someone of his calibre, or indeed a Stephen O’Neill or Owen Mulligan, into the team for the final.
So it appears that Tyrone’s only way to win the final will be via a collective attacking approach.
Some may consider it insulting to suggest Tyrone’s forward line lacks the individual brilliance of Dublin. And it probably is.
In previous All-Ireland finals, Con O’Callaghan, Ciaran Kilkenny, Dean Rock and Brian Fenton (albeit as a midfielder) have all put in man-of-the-match performances.
One brilliant individual performance can be, and indeed has been, enough for Dublin in the past.
They have had the luxury of not relying on any one individual. More often than not one player has always stepped up when it mattered most, and this person has normally been a forward.
This cannot be said of Tyrone.
This is a new Tyrone team. The forward line contains no survivors from the panel in the 2008 All-Ireland final. Indeed, only Colm Cavanagh remains from that season and he was predominantly a substitute.
He is now their main player and, as his man-of-the-match performance against Monaghan showed, this remains in a defensive role.
Would any of Tyrone’s current forward line make it into Dublin’s? That’s why Harte will need to formulate a collective attacking plan.
Harte and his management team have shown their appreciation of this over the last few years, always preferring the team over individuals.
Ronan O’Neill and players like him may well run riot at club level in Tyrone, but this is a new era and there is a new style to this Tyrone team – and to football in general.
Perhaps this is what Sean Cavanagh was highlighting early in the season.
Individual brilliance has been swapped for work-rate, discipline, hard-running and efficiency.
Add in the fact that sport doesn’t always follow the script and you can see how the conventional wisdom that Dublin will simply show up and win could be challenged.
Sport has always thrown up surprises, which is why it makes it so appealing.
Football will be the better if Tyrone win the All-Ireland – from a hope perspective.
It will reinvigorate many other inter-county teams and players up and down the country.
From a purist perspective, football has never suffered under the current Dublin team’s dominance. They play football brilliantly. They are rightly lauded as one of the greatest ever teams.
We will not suffer a fall in standards should Dublin continue to win All-Irelands. It could be four, five or six-in-a-row. The only thing to go at that stage will be hope.
And what is sport without hope?