Pundit Watch: Have Tyrone won the right to lose to Dublin?
WILL this – watching two Ulster teams battle it out manfully for the right to go down equally manfully to Dublin in the All-Ireland final – prove the pinnacle of the football Championship summer?
That would be much too cynical an analysis, but there was a distinct air of anti-climax in the RTÉ studio yesterday afternoon, not so much about a captivating semi-final which went down to the wire, but about what the victors have to offer in the immediate future.
With the game level at half-time, Joe Brolly insisted Tyrone needed to calm down and not lose sight of the strengths which had got them this far. In the end, it was a mixture of Monaghan profligacy and Tyrone ruthlessness in front of goal that proved the difference.
“We highlighted the points before the game and it kind of lived up to that billing – there was a lot of hard tackling, really intense around the middle,” said Mayo veteran Lee Keegan doing his best impression of Pat Spillane in the Kerry man’s absence.
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“The goal, though, the goal was the crucial part of the game – that’s the killer blow that got them [Tyrone] over the line. So in the overall context of the game, I think Tyrone were the worthy winners because of that bit more quality on show.”
Brolly concurred it was Niall Sludden’s three-pointer that the game swung on, at a point when Monaghan had hit the front for the first time in the contest.
“At that stage, for the first time, you felt Tyrone are going to squander this and then the goal came,” said the Dungiven man.
“There were so many mistakes, it was so helter-skelter at times, there were so many poorly judged shots and all the rest of it, but there’s no doubt that we had a very exciting finale and I do believe that, on the whole, Tyrone are going in the right direction.”
And that appeared to be the general theme of yesterday’s analysis. Tyrone are better than Monaghan, Tyrone deserved to beat Monaghan, Tyrone are a team on an upward curve, but a team that can beat Dublin in an All-Ireland final in three weeks? Well…
“They didn’t show sufficient composure, but I think they showed enough in the first 15 minutes to know that this is the way to go,” added Brolly of Mickey Harte’s increasing emphasis on attack.
“You can’t go out against the Dubs in a defensive formation and wait to be picked off. Now, there are problems in their kick-outs; how they press in the kick-outs, which will be a disaster against the Dubs; they’ve gone man-to-man, which means the opposing team can dictate the kick-out, so Rory Beggan had an easy day from that perspective.”
Tomás Ó Sé wasn’t getting himself overexcited either when the whistle had blown for full-time: “I think Tyrone showed that little bit of cuteness,” was near the height of his praise.
“They were lucky and fortunate, I suppose, the fact that the opportunity for the goal showed up, but they finished it out well.”
As for Monaghan? We’ll let Joe Brolly sum them up: “When Ciarán McManus is kept out of the game from play, you’re in trouble.”
Ah, the boul’ Ciarán McManus. Now, if Mickey Harte had himself to start against Dublin…