Enda McGinley: My glass is half-full when it comes to Tyrone
THIS past week in Tyrone has seen the ultimate division of the ‘glass half full’ crowd from the ‘glass half empty’.
The way the All-Ireland final panned out allowed itself to be analysed and portrayed in two very different ways.
Some feel it proves Tyrone, and for that matter the rest of the chasing pack, are nowhere close to this Dublin side. Even in a game where Dublin were notably off colour in the first quarter, they had the game won at half-time and just coasted through the rest. These people believe there is nothing to stop Dublin doing five-, six- or even seven-in-a-row, apart from Kerry maybe boosting their minors with a few steaks to accelerate their transition to senior football.
They say Tyrone are still a team with no forwards, an unreliable goalkeeper and will never be able to compete with Dublin’s thoroughbreds and their vast resources.
The ‘glass half full’ folks have a very different interpretation. They will feel Tyrone had Dublin completely on the rack and, but for that bad 10 to 15 minute spell, that Tyrone more than matched Dublin throughout.
They will feel that this young Tyrone side can only get better and, with more experience of the big day, are not that far away.
The truth, as ever, is probably somewhere in between.
First and foremost all analysis of last week’s final must first start with acknowledging what an exceptional team Dublin are. The argument whether they are the ‘greatest of all time’ will be teased out ad nauseam next year and, while I don’t think they are necessarily the greatest, to me they have advanced the playing of the game to its highest ever level.
To list their strengths is quite a drawn out and, from an opponent’s point of view, depressing task – athleticism matched with talent matched with game management matched with decision-making matched with skill-execution matched with stomach for the battle matched with team ethos matched with a hard edge.
What Jim Gavin has achieved, in creating the atmosphere and culture around and within the team, to harness the talent and resources that he has is amazing.
For Tyrone, as heartbreaking as the loss was there was, for me, much hope.
I guess by that I am a ‘glass half full’ person. The heart and effort shown by Tyrone was something, as a Tyrone man, I was exceptionally proud of. In some ways outclassed, they refused to bend the knee. That is an essential raw ingredient moving into the future.
They more than kept pace with Dublin. Yes, players like Jack McCaffrey or Brian Fenton have physical attributes that are difficult to match but, similarly, I saw their most threatening player Paul Mannion take on Padraig Hampsey in a one-on-one run and Hampsey stuck with him the whole way and completed a 100 per cent turnover.
I saw Kieran McGeary stop Philly McMahon in his tracks, I saw Michael McKernan stick with Costello in a one-on-one duel and nullify his attack.
Little glimpses maybe but they were part of the bigger trend of Tyrone winning the turnover count and enough to dispel the myth of a superhuman Dublin. In other areas, Dublin did show superiority.
Their conversion rate and kick-outs were better than Tyrone, along with their game management.
In terms of kick-outs Niall Morgan has come in for criticism, however, while he did mishit the kick that led to the first Dublin goal, much of the issue was the fact that Dublin execute the zonal press of kick-outs better than any team in the country.
From my vantage point of the press box in the upper tier of the Hogan, I can usually always see options that understandably a goalkeeper might not.
On Sunday, Niall had precious few options, a fact not aided by, at times, a dearth of real movement from the outfield Tyrone players.
Dublin’s game management was impressive.
While not an attractive part of the game, Dublin knew when to slow the game down and did so on several occasions.
They knew to drop high numbers back to stifle Tyrone’s early start and they certainly have a sixth sense for being able to kill a team in their purple patch.
Their game management is impressive, their gamesmanship less admirable. For such noted athletes it was a joke to see how many and how often they threw themselves to the ground under minimum contact off-the-ball.
Now before all you non-Tyrone people choke on your Cornflakes, I hate this if, or when, Tyrone do it too, but what is most jarring was the complete blind eye turned to this by all commentators.
One of the talking points around Dublin is that they do not get enough credit.
To listen to some commentators, you would think we should be lying down in awe of them and just giving thanks to be able to be alive and see this team in action. This is where acknowledgement of their achievements goes way too far.
Surely having won four
All-Irelands you don’t need to be told you’re a great football side? Does someone need to tell the All-Blacks they are great at rugby, or Roger Federer that he’s decent at tennis or that Usain Bolt has got a bit of speed about him?
Dublin’s actions speak louder than any words yet it would be a crying shame if Dublin were to achieve the greatest thing ever in our sport and not be made earn it in a manner befitting the task. If Dublin achieve it, they will be talked of for decades to come and achieve immortality.
For the chasing pack to stand any chance, that adulation can come in the future but not before then.
From Tyrone’s point of view, the final has to hurt.
Many supporters are very much seeing an honourable defeat and, while this is true, I would worry that by accepting it as such, we are back to accepting Dublin’s total superiority.
The players themselves cannot allow this and I have no doubt their manager will not.
Dublin will continue to be the best team in Ireland next year but that does not mean they are unbeatable.
Tyrone played the game in a different way than they have played it for four years, by largely pushing up for large periods of the game.
That alone will explain some of the decision-making errors but also signals the amount of improvement still possible from them if they adopt that style on a more regular basis.
My big fear next year is that the top counties, including Tyrone, act as bystanders as Dublin achieve the mythical five in-a-row.
Offaly 1982 and Seamus Darby have their own place as GAA immortals, however, and that is the prize awaiting whichever county can stand up and defeat the Dubs.
A tall task but, for me, if Sunday showed us anything it is that it is not an impossible one.