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GAA Football

Dublin pull away in second half to kill Tyrone's hope after bright start

Tyrone's Peter Harte and Dublin's Michael Fitzsimons duting Saturday's clash at Healy Park Picture by Philip Walsh
Neil Loughran


Allianz Football League Division One; Tyrone 1-11 Dublin 2-13

HOW many times can you tell the same old story? In this reading at least Tyrone brought plenty of excitement to the early chapters, but as the pages flicked past the ending started to become more and more predictable.

That is not a criticism of the Red Hands any more than it is a criticism of Kildare the week previous. Or the likes of Kerry, Monaghan or Mayo, counties who have all had the Dubs on the rack at different stages in the past 12 months, the Kingdom the only ones to sneak across the line.

Teams may be able to live with them in the early stages, but eventually Jim Gavin’s juggernaut will grind you down. It has been shown time and again, and was evident once more at Healy Park on Saturday night

Whether it’s putting together a short scoring burst that can turn a two-point lead into a five-point deficit, or simply dragging so many unforced errors from war-weary limbs, Dublin have mastered the art of winning by whatever means.

Yet, at times during the first half in Omagh, Tyrone were a joy to behold. And, regardless of the final outcome, this was a marked improvement on the previous week in Galway.

Pinpoint accurate diagonal balls from deep isolated Connor McAliskey and Lee Brennan against Darren Daly and Michael Fitzsimons on several occasions.

Brennan, in particular, was the Red Hands’ most effective player, occasionally roving out deep and linking attacks, but more often cleverly timing his runs on the loop and leaving Fitzsimons playing a guessing game.

The Trillick ace scored two superb points in the first 35, masterfully sending Fitzsimons for 20 Regal for the second, while his free-taking was on the money barring one wide late in the first half.

After a slow start against the Tribesmen, Tyrone came flying out of the blocks, Cathal McShane – operating at midfield – bagging 1-1 inside the opening five minutes.

Having found themselves in exactly the same position against Kildare seven days previous, the Dubs kept their cool, Kevin McManamon keeping them in touch before Ciaran Kilkenny’s 22nd minute goal brought them within a point.

Kilkenny was outstanding on the night, his contribution made all the more impressive by the variety of his play. One minute he was Alan Brogan, probing and prompting, the next ‘Bomber’ Liston manning the square to lethal effect.

Smart, two footed and strong as a bull, the Castleknock man has all you would want in a modern day footballer – but then so do so many of the boys in blue.

Mickey Harte was understandably disappointed with the concession of Dublin’s first goal, a simple high ball into the square from Brian Fenton won above Aidan McCrory’s head, Kilkenny displaying his killer instinct to lash home from his own knock down.

The Red Hands weren’t about to be cowed though, and a couple of flashpoints between John Small and Peter Harte brought the crowd to their feet as the half neared its end.

Kilkenny almost bagged a second goal, lashing the ball off the bar after a nice lay-off from Brian Howard, the Dubs signalling their intent heading towards the break.

Then, as they have done so many times before, they killed their opponents’ hope – and they did it playing with 14 men for half an hour after Niall Scully was shown a second yellow card.

Tyrone didn’t help themselves either. McAliskey was denied a goal by Cluxton 52 minutes in, while six wides in the first half were followed by seven in the second, albeit there was a swirling wind towards the Gortin Road end after the break.

However, compared to just two wides accumulated for Dublin in the whole 70-plus minutes, it makes for grim reading.

The Red Hands didn’t add to their 1-7 first half tally for 28 minutes, by which stage the Dubs had scored 1-10, with James McCarthy and Fenton increasingly influential.

Once they had the game by the scruff, they were able to drop numbers back and play keep ball, attacking when they chose. The introduction of subs Colm Basquel and Eoghan O’Gara bore fruit too, Basquel finishing with three and O’Gara scoring the killer second goal after a mix up between Niall Morgan and Padraig Hampsey.

It was fitting that Brennan finished the scoring with two unerring frees – a worthy return for a good evening’s work – but it wasn’t enough to change the chatter from the huge crowd filtering out of Healy Park minutes later.

These Dubs are going to take some stopping again.

Tyrone: N Morgan; P Hampsey, C McCarron, HP McGeary; T McCann, A McCrory, C McLaughlin; C McShane (1-1), D McClure; M Donnelly, N Sludden (0-1), R Donnelly; P Harte (0-1), C McAliskey (0-2), L Brennan (0-6, 0-3 frees). 

Subs: M McKernan for HP McGeary (22), R McNamee for A McCrory (HT), C McCann for McClure (49), R McNabb for McLaughlin (55), F Burns for R Donnelly (55), M Bradley for T McCann (62)

Yellow cards: HP McGeary (19), P Harte (28), M Donnelly (30), N Sludden (55)

Dublin: S Cluxton; P McMahon, M Fitzsimons, D Daly; J Cooper, J McCarthy (0-1), J Small; B Fenton (0-1), MD Macauley; B Howard, C Kilkenny (1-2), N Scully; P Mannion, D Rock (0-4, frees), K McManamon (0-2). 

Subs: D Byrne for Small (45), P Andrews for McManamon (52), C Basquel (0-3, 0-1 free) for Mannion (61), E O’Gara (1-0) for Rock (64), S Carthy for McCarthy (68), E Lowndes for Fenton (69)

Yellow cards: J Small (28), N Scully (30, 45), M Fitzsimons (74), J Cooper (74)

Red card: N Scully (45)

Referee: M Deegan (Laois)

Att: 9,465

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