GAA Football

Imperious Dublin simply too good for gutsy Tyrone

Mickey Harte commiserates with his nephew Peter at the final whistle of yesterday's All-Ireland final
Brendan Crossan at Croke Park

All-Ireland Senior Football Championship final: Dublin 2-17 Tyrone 1-14

SO THE waiting around continues for the rest of the country. Waiting for Dublin’s dominance to end.

Yesterday, Jim Gavin’s men made it four All-Ireland titles in a row - equalling the great Kerry side's feat between 1978 to '81 - and claiming their sixth of this decade.

The Dubs are so far ahead of the chasing pack that the All-Ireland series no longer raises the pulses like it once did. They are as close to unbeatable as you’ll get in team sport.

Apart from the opening 15 minutes of yesterday’s decidedly mundane final, Tyrone were a painfully distant second best. Dublin have great players in most positions of the field and they have a manager that is able to keep them hungry for more success. It's a staggering achievement.

All the pre-match indicators played out in front of a packed house yesterday afternoon. For Tyrone to upset the odds and win a fourth All-Ireland title in their history, they needed to produce a near-perfect performance. And for a while the Red Hand faithful dared to dream as they watched their side fashion a 0-5 to 0-1 lead after 16 minutes.

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Mark Bradley was flying, giving Jonny Cooper his fill of it. Connor McAliskey looked in the mood while Niall Morgan was pinging balls to either flank like it was a regular training session in Garvaghey.

Every Tyrone turnover was cheered like a goal. Cathal McShane was running at the Dublin defence and Kieran McGeary showed the champions scant regard with some ferocious tackling. At the other end Dean Rock – the best free-taker in the country – hooked two efforts wide and Jack McCaffrey scuffed another chance.

Even though Tyrone were erratic in front of goal, their opponents were playing well below their potential. But then, in an instant, Tyrone’s world fell in around them.

In a nightmare four-minute spell between the 19th and 23rd minutes, Dublin chiselled out 1-3 and grabbed another major five minutes later to send Tyrone reeling going in at the break.

During that ill-fated period, a couple of kick-out malfunctions caused untold damage to Tyrone’s challenge. Morgan sent one 21st minute kick-out down the throat of Kilkenny and within a blink of an eye Con O’Callaghan had dummied Michael McKernan and off-loaded to Paul Mannion who won his side a penalty.

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Tiernan McCann was adjudged to have impeded the Dublin attacker – a decision that prompted howls of disapproval from the Red Hand supporters.

It was the break Dublin needed and they took full advantage as Mannion lashed the ball into the roof of the net to level the tie [1-2 to 0-5]. Kilkenny broke Morgan’s next kick-out and the ever-resourceful Dean Rock – more than just a brilliant free-taker – pounced to send over Tyrone’s bar.

Seconds later, Brian Fenton won Morgan's next kick-out over Cathal McShane's head and Rock was on target again. The Dubs were rampant. More woe awaited the Ulstermen when Conor Meyler conceded an unnecessary foul and the ball was ferried to O’Callaghan who off-loaded to Niall Scully to palm into the unguarded side of Tyrone’s goal.

Between the 19th minute to the interval, the defending champions had outscored Tyrone 2-6 to 0-1 and led by seven points – an advantage the underdogs never looked like overturning.

Niall Sludden couldn’t get free of Eoin Murchan. John Small was like Velcro to Peter Harte and Mattie Donnelly spent virtually the entire afternoon trying to plug holes. But if there’s a hole, the Dubs will find it.

The pace and angles of their attacking play completely nullified Tyrone sweeper Collie Cavanagh. From the seventh floor of the Hogan stand, where the media is perched, the Dublin players made the game look ridiculously easy and shone an unforgiving light on their opponents.

Take Brian Howard and Brian Fenton as examples. The two men floated across the famous turf yesterday. They produced near-flawless performances in the middle sector of the field. Howard is only 20 but plays like a seasoned 28-year-old.

Dublin's Con O'Callaghan is challenged by Tyrone's Kieran McGeary during yesterday's final
Picture by Philip Walsh  

No matter how hard the Tyrone players harried and laid into him, the 2017 U21 All-Ireland winner brushed them aside before playing yet another astute pass.

Fenton has yet to lose a senior Championship game wearing the sky blue jersey. He bagged two second-half points to stamp his authority on yesterday’s decider and looked fresh enough for another 70-plus minutes.

And then there’s Ciaran Kilkenny, Dublin’s non-stop metronome. Tiernan McCann had the temerity to steal an early point off him. It turned out to be the Tyrone defender’s single victory of the day. After that, Kilkenny found his rhythm and conducted affairs.

It didn’t help Tyrone’s cause that Dublin were awarded a few soft frees which Rock converted. Even though defeat seemed inevitable at the interval, the Tyrone players showed admirable resilience to keep pushing forward in the second half.

Scores from McAliskey and McGeary reduced Dublin’s lead to five points after 37 minutes but when Dublin needed a score they always found one to keep the Red Hands at a comfortable distance.

Dublin's Con O'Callaghan is challenged by Tyrone's Kieran McGeary during yesterday's final
Picture by Philip Walsh  

John Small engaged in a bit of theatrics when he fell to the ground after a brush with Peter Harte – but the sticky Dublin defender would not see the end of yesterday’s final after picking up a second yellow card in the 71st minute for another foul on the Errigal Ciaran man.

Mickey Harte emptied his bench with Lee Brennan, Harry Loughran, Richie Donnelly and Frank Burns given a decent amount of game-time to make an impact, but it was easier said than done against a side of Dublin's quality.

In a last throw of the dice, Collie Cavanagh was posted at full-forward and with the one quality ball that landed on top of him, he was fouled by McMahon and Peter Harte scalped the penalty low into the corner of the net in the 67th minute to reduce the arrears to five points.

A massive cheer went up among the Tyrone fans when seven minutes of stoppage-time was added on but the Dubs managed to outscore them 0-3 to 0-2 during that period.

It's hard to be too critical of Tyrone. When you think back at Navan and almost crashing out to Meath in an All-Ireland qualifier, they did brilliantly to reach this year's decider.

Yes, they hit 16 wides yesterday - some of them really bad efforts - and they hoped to get a little bit closer to Dublin but finishing runners-up was always the likely outcome. Dublin are just too good.

The wait goes on for the rest of the country as they watch for the first signs of slippage in this great Dublin team. They could be waiting for some considerable time...


Dublin: S Cluxton; P McMahon, C O’Sullivan, E Murchan; J Small, J Cooper, J McCaffrey (0-1); B Fenton (0-2), J McCarthy; N Scully (1-0), C O’Callaghan, B Howard (0-1); P Mannion (1-1), C Kilkenny (0-3), D Rock (0-7, 0-3 frees, 0-1 ’45) Subs: M Fitzsimons for C O’Sullivan (21 inj), C Costello for N Scully (53), K McManamon (0-1) for P Mannion (58), D Daly for E Murchan (59), E Lowndes for J Cooper (64), MD MacAuley (0-1) for D Rock (67); Yellow cards: J Small (44), P McMahon (67); Red cards: J Small (Two yellows: 44 & 71)
Tyrone: N Morgan; M McKernan, R McNamee, P Hampsey (0-1); T McCann (0-1), F Burns, P Harte (1-1, 1-0 pen, 0-1 free); C Cavanagh, C McShane (0-2); M Donnelly, N Sludden, K McGeary (0-1); M Bradley (0-2), C Meyler, C McAliskey (0-3, 0-1 free) Subs: L Brennan (0-3 frees) for C Meyler (40), F Burns for N Sludden (46), R Donnelly for C McAliskey (49), D McClure for C McShane (55), R O’Neill for M Bradley (63); Yellow cards: T McCann (20), P Hampsey (62); Black card: K McGeary replaced by H Loughran (48-49)
Referee: C Lane (Cork)
Attendance: 82,000




Stephen Cluxton: Put one kick-out over the line early on when Tyrone had the Dubs on the rack for a spell, but never lost his composure. A typically assured display. 8

Philip McMahon: His man, Connor McAliskey, started the game well but found himself roaming out deep to try and get involved, which suited McMahon. Picked up a yellow for hauling Colm Cavanagh to the ground for the Tyrone penalty. 7

Jonny Cooper: Found the movement of Bradley a handful early on, but as the Dubs dropped deeper to close the space, Cooper found himself less isolated. 7

Cian O’Sullivan: Played around midfield, with McCarthy sweeping during his 26 minutes on the field – a clear sign all was not well. Pulled up after being spun by Bradley and withdrawn shortly after. 6

John Small: Tyrone needed a big game from Harte but he was largely stifled by Small, by fair means or foul. Shown a red card for two yellows in added time, but it was too late for the Red Hands by then. 7

Eoin Murchan: Picked up where he left off in Omagh back in July by keeping a close watch on Sludden and driving forward when he could. The Dromore man was eventually take off 11 minutes after the break. 8

Jack McCaffrey: For a spell towards the end of their first half, Tyrone couldn’t get near him as his electric pace started attack after attack. Always a threat. 8

James McCarthy: Started in a deeper position but won so much possession, and his bursts through the middle left Tyrone gasping for breath at times. 8

Brian Fenton: Came into his own in the second half, winning possession and tapping over two effortless scores. 8

Niall Scully: Got little change from Rory Brennan but the one time he did get free, Scully was on hand to score Dublin’s killer second goal. 7

Ciaran Kilkenny: Started at full-forward but more effective when he came out. So strong and comfortable in possession, seldom chooses the wrong option. 8

Brian Howard: Seemed to pop up everywhere – a big, strong physical presence who outfielded Colm Cavanagh several times and was central to the Dublin cause. 8.5

Con O’Callaghan: Didn’t score but linked play well and had a big hand in both goals, playing in Mannion for the first and laying the second on a plate for Scully. 8

Dean Rock: Uncharacteristically missed a couple of early frees but bounced back brilliantly with three points from play as the Dubs took control. 8

Paul Mannion: See Star Man


Michael Fitzsimons: Came on early for Cian O'Sullivan and did well on Bradley, then sub Lee Brennan. 7.5

Cormac Costello: Hit the post with a late goal chance after a bursting through the Tyrone rearguard. 7

Kevin McManamon: Some man to be able to bring on towards the end, but was well handled by Tyrone. 6.5

Darren Daly: Helped out the Dublin defensive effort after coming on. Now has six All-Ireland medals. 6.5

Eric Lowndes: Scored a point in added time to settle Dublin nerves as Tyrone came on strong. 7

Michael Darragh Macauley: Scored the last point of the game with a trademark run and fisted score. 7


Paul Mannion (Dublin)

His pace caused Tyrone problems, especially when the Dubs took the game by the scruff. Fouled for the penalty, and finished unerringly. Contributed well to the defensive effort too, and was on hand to make a crucial interception as Harte looked to be in for a goal chance in the first half. Serious shift. 8.5



Niall Morgan: The Edendork man’s kick-outs were flawless in the opening quarter, but a couple of bad choices between the 20th and 23rd minutes caused serious damage. Denied Cormac Costello a goal in the second half. 6

Michael McKernan: Sold a dummy by Con O’Callaghan that probably every defender in the country would have fell for that led to Dublin’s first goal. That apart, the youngster stuck to his task well. 6

Ronan McNamee: Dean Rock’s economy of movement was exceptional with the Tyrone full-back struggling to read the Ballymun man. Tried to play on the front foot. 6

Pádraig Hampsey: An excellent year and didn’t do his Allstar claims any harm. Dispossessed Paul Mannion brilliantly in the first-half. One of Tyrone’s better performers. 7

Tiernán McCann: Stole forward to point early on and looked to have the measure of Ciaran Kilkenny in the opening 15 minutes, but then Dublin’s metronome assumed control. Tough going. 5.5

Rory Brennan: Probably drafted into the starting line-up for his pace and pushed Niall Scully to the fringes. But Scully sniffed out one chance to goal. Stayed manfully with sub Cormac Costello. 7

Peter Harte: Struggled with John Small’s niggling presence. Hit a couple first half wides and his decision-making wasn’t its usual standard. Converted a penalty but was held scoreless. 6

Collie Cavanagh: Easily by-passed in the sweeper’s role and struggled with the countless Dublin runners. Moved to full-forward, won a penalty but never hit the heights. 5.5

Cathal McShane: The U21 All-Ireland winner is as game as they come but was probably always going to struggle against Dublin’s midfield. Kept shooting. Missed a few and scored a couple when the ratio needed to be better. 6

Mattie Donnelly: The Tyrone captain was trying to plug too many defensive holes and ran himself into the ground. The pity was a lot of his running was in the wrong direction. An utterly thankless job. 6.5

Niall Sludden: Eoin Murchan claimed another victory over Tyrone’s chief line-breaker. Didn’t convert a couple of half chances and was always on the periphery. 5.5

Kieran McGeary: Won a couple of morale-boosting turnovers in the early stages and showed plenty of fight but Jack McCaffrey was like trying to nail jelly. Rightly black-carded for blocking Brian Fenton. 6.5

Mark Bradley: Gave Jonny Cooper plenty to think about, especially in the first half, and was Tyrone’s most effective player up until the break. 7

Conor Meyler: A late change for Richie Donnelly, the Omagh man struggled in the first half, culminating in being turned over that led directly to a Dublin score just before the break. 5

Connor McAliskey: Philly McMahon’s cuteness had ‘Skeet’ chasing him down the field a few times but the chances he got he converted. Emptied the tank. 7


Lee Brennan: Hit three sure-footed frees. 6

Frank Burns: Struggled with the pace of the game upon entry. 5

Richie Donnelly: Never got to grips with the pace of the game. 5

Harry Loughran: The Moy man couldn’t conjure one of his trademark goals. 5

Declan McClure: Won one notable turnover. 5.5

Ronan O’Neill: Could have done better with a couple of possessions. 5

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