GAA Football

Tyrone must not give Dublin goal chances, warns Mattie Donnelly

Tyrone's Mattie Donnelly won't face Diarmuid Connolly in Healy Park this Saturday evneing but Dublin will still be extremely tough opponents. Pic Seamus Loughran
Francis Mooney

TYRONE skipper Mattie Donnelly has warned that the Dubs will ruthlessly punish the sort of goal chances that Tyrone coughed up against Roscommon.

The Rossies netted twice at Croke Park as concentration levels dipped, but there was never any danger of the Connacht men catching a rampant Red Hand side.

The stakes will be much higher at Healy park on Saturday evening when one mistake could make all the difference.

A fascinating clash between Tyrone and the All-Ireland champions will be played out in front of a capacity crowd which will witness the first ever championship meeting of the counties at the Omagh venue.

"One thing that Dublin are very good at is being clinical and scoring goals. They obviously take massive, massive energy from it, so we can't be giving them away so softly as we did, there's no doubt about that," said the Red Hand captain.

Tyrone's performance against Roscommon was arguably the most impressive of all those competing in the Super 8s at the weekend.

Their counter-attacking was at times breath-taking, the quality of their finishing of the highest quality as they chalked up a massive 4-24 score-line.

But the challenge facing the Red Hands on Saturday will demand greater levels of intensity and discipline as they seek to eliminate unforced errors.

"There were elements of our play we weren't happy with. We would have taken the seven points lead at half-time, we always back ourselves to keep going to the final whistle, with the subs we have.

"So we were happy with the seven points gap, and we capitalised on that in the second half, but still we gave them a few lines of options in the second half that we wouldn't be happy about."

With a 24 points scoring average in this year's championship, Tyrone have gone some way towards shedding their defensive image and silencing the critics of their footballing style.

They won't be expecting, though, that the Dubs will allow them the sort of space and freedom in front of goal that they enjoyed against Cork and Roscommon.

"The argument that will be put against that is that we were putting up big scores last year, until we met Dublin, so there's still stiffer tests ahead.

"But we are pleased with some of our play. When you're scoring that amount, you have to be happy, and we'll take positives from it, but again there's a lot of things we need to do better against Dublin."

Last year's crushing All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Dublin brought Tyrone's season to a shuddering halt.

It was a painful experience, but harsh lessons were learned that may stand to the Red Hands as they attempt to inflict a first championship defeat on Jim Gavin's side since 2014.

"We're kinda focussing on every game we have played this year, and improving for the next, and we'll be looking at today's learnings. Obviously we will be seeing things we could improve on from last year.

"But there's a lot of things we think we're doing well this year, there's a lot of things we have to do better for next week, and that's what we want to work on during the week."

And with home advantage, Mickey Harte's side will seek to exploit whatever vulnerability may accompany the Dubs on their journey away from Croke Park, scene of virtually all of their championship games.

"Donnelly commented: "We don't know how big an advantage it is until next Saturday. So we'll see."

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