GAA Football

Cahair O'Kane: Ten things that must happen if Tyrone are to beat Dublin

Tyrone will meet Dublin in this year's All-Ireland football final, but a lot needs to go right for the Red Hands if they're to win - including a possible change of role for Peter Harte.

1. Peter Harte plays where John Small can’t foul him

A FEW months back in ‘Kicking Out’, it was suggested that the first thing Peter Harte should do the next time he faces John Small is walk up on the throw-in, start a wrestling match and have the two on yellow cards from day dot. That didn’t happen in Omagh. Harte’s performance was better that night than previously, but still not of the level of influence he needs to exert if Tyrone are to win. The last month, he’s been in outstanding form but it’s a hard game to play when you have a man permanently glued to you. Even if it’s only on a rotational basis, Harte should spend a significant part of next weekend at full-forward. It’s the one place Small can’t foul him and get away with it. Harte can be a deadly finisher, and his ability to carve a goal chance would only increase if he’s winning the ball in the scoring zone. If Small’s able to wrap him up out the pitch again, Tyrone have no chance.

2. The inside forward line wins a lot more ball

IT was an issue on Sunday that two of Monaghan’s best performers were the two Wylie brothers. Tyrone got limited joy out of the kick pass, which is an issue that goes all the way back to 2015. Richie Donnelly needs to make simply winning the ball his priority, because if he does that, Jonny Cooper or Philly McMahon will struggle with his power from there. It’s likely that Mark Bradley will start ahead of Lee Brennan, and between them and Peter Harte, if he moves in, they’ll have to make it stick better.

3. Padraig Hampsey stays at full-back

ONE element of last year’s game that gets overlooked is the ease with which Dublin’s full-forward line sliced past their men repeatedly. Padraig Hampsey’s performance on Conor McManus was excellent, and while he could possibly push out on Brian Fenton or James McCarthy, Tyrone have more options in that area than at full-back. Hampsey is the man for Paul Mannion, with Ronan McNamee on Rock and Michael McKernan on Con O’Callaghan. That would be an improvement on what Dublin faced twelve months ago.

4. Mattie Donnelly doesn’t get too bogged down

THE Trillick man’s defensive work at the weekend was outstanding, most notably the strength and discipline of his tackling. It makes him an important part of their defensive unit. But he didn’t seem to have much licence to get forward, making only a couple of notable incursions into Monaghan’s half. There’s a chance he’d be asked to tail Ciaran Kilkenny but even if he does that to perfection, you have to wonder whether Tyrone can win the game without utilising what he can offer them on the ball as well. Best to free him up again and take a chance that either Frank Burns or Kieran McGeary can curtail Kilkenny.

5. Hard zonal press on kickouts

THIS is, despite some analysis to the contrary, nothing new to Tyrone. Look back at the first kickout last year, when they squeezed right up and Stephen Cluxton sent it 80 yards over their heads to Niall Scully. The fear of a repeat can’t define their attitude here though, because if they don’t squeeze, they’ll definitely lose. And if they don’t do it right, they’ll still lose. Kerry and Mayo have had the most joy in doing so because of their bravery. Six forwards in their zones and any loose men picked up. At times this year Dublin have left just three players back in their own half on an opposition kickout. Doing the same to them is what it will take to beat them.

6. Tyrone go with a full hand from the start

IT’S a tricky one for Mickey Harte to pick his team, given the joy he’s had off the bench all year. The big danger on the big day is that it can be beyond rescue by the time you look to the subs. They made a step towards that on Sunday with Kieran McGeary starting. Lee Brennan may well be held in reserve for the decider. With Harry Loughran and Ronan O’Neill, as well as the legs of Conall McCann and Declan McClure available around the middle, there’s still enough punch to maintain their levels if they do manage to find themselves in a tight game.

7. Tiernan McCann on Jack McCaffrey

AND by early, you mean early. Whatever RTÉ thought giving Man of the Match to Kilkenny on Saturday, McCaffrey was the outstanding player on show. His ability to go from 0-60 off a standing start is almost unmatchable. But if Tyrone have learnt anything from last year, it should be that you have to try. They allowed him, and others, to build their head of steam unchallenged from deep, and that led to the structured chaos further up the pitch. When you line them all up, it seems like the obvious thing to do is to send Tiernan McCann in to him. He has the pace and the tackling strength to make a better fist than anyone else, and he can cause trouble at the other end.

8. Play into the Hill first

THE goal after three minutes last year was highlighted as the major score, but it didn’t really matter. Even in the little time that was played before that, you could see its inevitability. Colm Cavanagh was desperately trying to call his men into shape but they were all over the shop, and only his good reading prevented an even earlier goal when Tyrone were completely exposed. It was their first big day in front of the packed blue Hill, and having McKernan, Hampsey, McGeary and Burns in the defence creates inexperience again. If Tyrone can get those men down and relatively settled at the Canal End for the first half, they might avoid a similar early fate.

9. Commit big numbers to their own breaks

IF there’s one weakness in their kickout strategy, it’s that their long-ball option can be very risky. They don’t seem to come to a point of abandoning the short ball and resetting their positions for the 50-50 kick. That leaves Colm Cavanagh needing to make marks, which is not so handy done against some of the best fielders in Ireland. If the short ball isn’t on, Niall Morgan needs to give a signal and give his players a few seconds to adjust their position to go long. Otherwise Dublin’s press will eat them up.

10. Get to 20 points

THE magic number. Teams have kept Dublin to much less than that but sacrificed their attacking instincts completely, and got beaten anyway. They’ve hit 1-15 and 1-17 in the last two finals, winning both by a point. The Mayo approach might have its flaws but it’s been closer than anyone to getting the job done. Omagh was the perfect example. Tyrone kept the Dubs to 1-14, but still didn’t score enough to win. The balance between containment and bravery is the biggest challenge of all.

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