GAA Football

Tyrone love it when a plan comes together

By Padraig Kelly

THE mastery of Tyrone’s system of play has been well documented by this stage, but the Red Hand players still need to execute it properly every match for it to be effective.

It has often been remarked how well coached the side appears to be, but it’s still an intricate set-up that requires full concentration for 70 minutes.

The declaration that the ‘line-breakers’ are the key cog of Mickey Harte’s game-plan is no big surprise, but the side’s ability to get the right men onto the ball in the right positions is still to be admired.

Sunday’s Ulster final was another great example of this. The four Tyrone players with the most possessions were Mattie Donnelly (33), Tiernan McCann (25), Peter Harte (22) and Niall Sludden (19) – the quartet who are generally trusted to carry out the side’s transition play.

Of the 99 possessions these four players had between them, they lost 10 in all. That’s an incredible return and validation of the faith the manager has in them.

Their retention rate sat at 90.1%, while the rest of the squad’s 88.75% retention rate was also very impressive. The other 22 players had just 36 more possessions between them though compared to those four players.

While Tyrone’s main tactic was almost flawless, Down’s Plan A faltered badly and disrupted their attacking flow.

On the surface, it was par for the course as they hit 15 scores for the third game in a row – 0-15 against Armagh and Tyrone and 1-14 against Monaghan.

However, they had both more possessions (287) and more attacks (49) on Sunday compared to their two previous fixtures.

While there were a couple of flickers of Connaire Harrison’s prowess against the Orchard county – Blaine Hughes denying him one-on-one in the first half – it all came together against Monaghan and he caused havoc and kicked three points from play before having to retire after 52 minutes due to injury.

Against Tyrone, the quick inside ball to Harrison didn’t work out on account of some fine man-marking from Ronan McNamee, ably assisted by Padraig Hampsey and Colm Cavanagh, and some rustiness that can be explained by the full-forward’s injury in the lead up to the game.

Down showed their intentions in the first minute as they played a quick ball into Harrison, who had made a clever run, but it bounced off him and he would lose six of his 14 possessions over the 70 minutes. No scores from two shots was further evidence of a plan that didn’t come together.

Plan B for the Mourne county was to unleash their own running game, but that was never going to succeed against a disciplined Tyrone defence that coughed up just four frees within their own 45-metre zone – and a couple of those were very debatable.

Credit must go to Ryan Johnston however who did not give away a single one of his 25 possessions although he did miss one of his three shots.

Some more black and white statistics further the claim that Tyrone got things right in an attacking sense while Down lagged that wee bit behind.

Tyrone’s shot conversion rate stood at 59 percent compared to the Mourne county’s 48 while it took Down 3.3 attacks per score while Tyrone were raising a flag every 2.8 attacks.

If you were be critical of the champions, it would be that they could have added more to their 2-17 tally.

Padraig Hampsey may have scored three points with three shots, but the last of those really should have been a green flag rather than a white with Michael Cunningham making a fine save.

Donnelly also had three wides to go with his three points while Sludden and Sean Cavanagh also passed up good point opportunities.

That’s nit-picking though on another day when Tyrone’s attacking performance went right to script.

MOST VALUBALE PLAYER

Mattie Donnelly (Tyrone)

This was by no means Donnelly’s best outing in a Tyrone shirt, but even when there are a few mistakes involved, he still seems to have a massive impact on proceedings. The Trillick player kicked three wides, and the first-half miss, when he could have played Peter Harte through on goal with a simple fist pass, was the worst of all. The good by far out-weighed the bad though. Donnelly lost just four possessions out of a huge total of 33, scored three points from play and had a hand in Ronan O’Neill’s first goal. The player just seems to pop up everywhere across the pitch and will be crucial as the Red Hands move into the All-Ireland series.

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