GAA Football

Dublin to come out on top in phony war with rivals Tyrone

It remains to be seen if Diarmuid Connolly gets game-time against Tyrone in Omagh tomorrow

All-Ireland Senior Football Championship quarter-final, Group Two: Tyrone v Dublin (Tomorrow, Omagh, 4pm)


WITH both Tyrone and Dublin already through to next weekend’s All-Ireland semi-finals the Super 8s experiment appears to be running on sand. Throw in another dead-rubber between Roscommon and Cork in Group Two and the GAA will need to think long and hard about what to do when the three-year trial period expires at the end of 2020.

Clare senior football manager Colm Collins probably summed up the Super 8s best.

"When you get to the quarter-finals and semi-finals it should be a straight knock-out,” he said.

“Having group stages at the end of a competition is something I would not be for. It’s a bit of a cop-out in my book. I mean, the Super 8s is the only competition in the world where the actual group stages are at the end of the competition. It’s absolutely ridiculous.”

Some pundits have given tomorrow’s encounter in Omagh between last year’s All-Ireland finalists a generous drum roll.

Darragh O Se reckons that Tyrone can’t afford to hold anything back on home soil and that they should be aiming to land a psychological blow for themselves and indeed the rest of the country by having an “almighty cut” at Jim Gavin’s Invincibles.

“Holding something back,” O Se says, “is a luxury Tyrone can’t afford.”

Irish News columnist Enda McGinley wrote in yesterday’s edition that Mickey Harte has always possessed an “almost pathological desire” to win football matches, although he did add his former manager mightn’t show his hand and speculated that Peter Harte and Cathal McShane could be held in reserve.

Of course, it’s dangerous to assume the Dubs and the Red Hands will meet again in this year’s All-Ireland final as Kerry, Donegal and perhaps Mayo would be keen to debate that scenario next weekend with two out of them advancing to next weekend’s semi-finals.

Compounding the dead-rubber scenario in Group Two, whoever wins in Omagh tomorrow will have a day’s less rest, while Gavin and Harte will also know the upshot of Group One which concludes in Castlebar this evening.

Tyrone and Dublin’s starting teams – two fanatically guarded secrets by both camps – will give an indication of each manager’s ambitions in Healy Park tomorrow.

It will be Tyrone’s ninth Championship outing of the summer and after going five weeks in a row they would have been glad of a two-week break between their struggles against Cork and Dublin tomorrow.

It's fair to say both sets of physios will have a bigger say than normal as to who starts for their respective teams.

If a player is feeling any kind of twinge or knock – or, in Peter Harte’s case, being one black card away from a suspension – it’s unlikely they’ll be risked.

Tomorrow is also an ideal opportunity for both managers to put some minutes into players who will be better options as a result for next weekend.

If the returning Diarmuid Connolly doesn’t see some action in Omagh he’s unlikely to play any part in Dublin’s pursuit of five All-Ireland titles in a row, and therefore you’d have to question the wisdom in recalling the enigmatic St Vincent’s clubman.

The smart money, however, is that Gavin will throw Connolly into the fray at some stage.

Even though this clash doesn’t have a huge amount riding on the outcome, it’s not without its dangers. It’s stating the obvious that neither Tyrone or Dublin will want to lose by a heavy score-line.

A two or three-point swing either way would be a very palatable outcome for both camps – a bit like how the Tipperary and Limerick hurlers approached their round robin dead rubber in Munster back in June, where Tipp won by four, before Limerick annihilated them in the decider a fortnight later.

Given Dublin’s serious depth of talent, Tyrone will probably worry more about the margin of defeat than Dublin will.

But this notion, as O Se puts it, that Tyrone can’t afford the luxury of holding something back is misplaced.

Given the low-stakes nature of the last round of the Super 8s, Tyrone would be foolish not to hold something back, tactically or otherwise.

It’s about peaking for next week’s All-Ireland semi-final and getting out of Omagh with no serious blows to morale.

Tyrone beating Dublin in their NFL Division one meeting in Croke Park back in March was largely an irrelevance. And Harte is wily enough to know he didn’t land any psychological blow at headquarters on that Saturday evening.

And there won't be any pyschological blows administered in Omagh either.

But what their meeting in March did do was allow Harte to see exactly what Cathal McShane and Mattie Donnelly can offer as a fearsome full-forward pairing in Croke Park. The Dublin defence was all at sea as McShane made hay.

There’s nothing better than a worm’s eye view of McShane’s explosiveness at full-forward – so Harte may deny Gavin the opportunity of seeing the Owen Roe’s clubman up close should the sides tangle again on September 1.

And where to play Mattie Donnelly? The Trillick man had a transformative effect in the second half against Cork when he was pushed further forward.

That’s where Donnelly belongs in this Tyrone team, but the feeling is he’ll be knitted back into the fabric of the Red Hand defence.

And will Harte’s worm’s eye view of the perceived slippage in Philly McMahon – defensively at least – and Cian O’Sullivan help him should both negotiate their respective semi-finals?

But seeing and handling the Dublin forwards are two very different scenarios.

A player’s natural competitive instinct always kicks in when they enter the field of play, but Harte is likely to give nothing away tactically as he continues to try and crack the Dublin code.

Supporters destined for Healy Park tomorrow can expect a high-scoring, slightly loose Super 8s encounter with a heap of substitutes turning it into a shapeless affair soon after half-time.

And they can expect a Dublin win. Don’t they always…


Man of the moment…

Diarmuid Connolly (Dublin)

HE hasn’t kicked a competitive ball for Dublin since his dramatic half-time introduction in the 2017 All-Ireland final against Mayo, but Diarmuid Connolly is still the name on everybody’s lips after making a shock return to the Dublin fold following their Super 8s victory over Cork. The mercurial forward has been tearing it up for St Vincent’s at centre half-back after a technicality ruled him out of returning to Boston this summer. Tomorrow would appear to be a good day to give Connolly some minutes to see where he’s at ahead of Dublin’s All-Ireland semi-final.


Team talk…

GIVEN that both teams have qualified for next week’s All-Ireland semi-finals it’s impossible to guess what team Mickey Harte will field. Peter Harte is a black card away from missing the semis and he mightn’t be risked. Anyone who’s carrying any kind of a knock can expect to be in the stands. And then there are others who could do with some minutes. Connor McAliskey, Padraig Hampsey, Richie Donnelly and Tiernan McCann fall into that bracket. And then there are others who Harte might want to simply keep away from Jim Gavin’s prying eyes.

Tyrone (probable v Dublin): N Morgan; P Hampsey, R McNamee, R Brennan; T McCann, K McGeary, F Burns; C Cavanagh, B Kennedy; M Donnelly, N Sludden, P Harte; C McAliskey, C McShane, D McCurry


Team talk…


JIM Gavin is probably less concerned about what Mickey Harte sees in Omagh tomorrow afternoon. With so many top class forwards among his reserves, Dubs fans can expect a few changes with Cormac Costello, Eric Lowndes and Paddy Andrews jockeying for rare starts, and the big question is whether Diarmuid Connolly breaches Gavin’s 26-man match-day squad after earning an unlikely recall.

Dublin (probable v Tyrone): S Cluxton; J Cooper, P McMahon, R O’Carroll; J McCarthy, J Small, E Lowndes; B Fenton, MD Macauley; N Scully, C Kilkenny, B Howard; C O’Callaghan, P Andrews, D Rock

Tactical take…


TYRONE went back to the tried and trusted method of running the ball after dabbling with a kicking game against Derry and Antrim, but they showed they are much more adept than last year at switching from one game-plan to another, evidenced by their second half display against Cork when Mattie Donnelly pushed up and turned the game. It'll be interesting to see if Harte plays Cathal McShane on the edge of the square as Tyrone may launch a few high balls into the Owen Roe's man to see if they can detect a softness there.

Tactical take…


DUBLIN may be the great game-managers of our time, but their defence has been coughing up more goal chances than in previous years. Jim Gavin will want to nail down a few defensive positions especially Cian O'Sullivan showing signs of slippage in the free man role at the back. While Dublin haven't been 'minding the house' with the same diligence, they probably don't need to when they're averaging 29 points per game. They will put Tyrone's kick-outs under big pressure with Brian Fenton and Michael Dara McAuley providing the platform at midfield.

Key battle...

Padraig Hampsey (Tyrone) v Paul Mannion (Dublin)

PADRAIG Hampsey dropped out of the side after the Donegal defeat but the Coalisland man still has a big part to play in the Tyrone defence. Still appears the best option to handle the brilliant Paul Mannion, and he coped manfully with the Dublin sharp-shooter in last year's All-Ireland final.

Last Championship meeting...

Sunday September 2, 2018: All-Ireland SFC final, Croke Park: Dublin 2-17 Tyrone 1-14

THE final scoreline didn’t look too bad on Tyrone but, in truth, they were a distant second in last year’s All-Ireland final. Tyrone’s mission impossible started so brightly as they raced into a 0-5 to 0-1 lead after 16 minutes of play.

Everything was going according to plan for Mickey Harte’s men, apart from a couple of efforts missing the target. But once Dublin found their rhythm, Tyrone were blitzed in a devastating four-minute spell. Between the 19th and 23rd minutes, the Dubs recovered this match by hitting 1-3. Tyrone tried to play a more expansive game on the day but couldn’t really live with Dublin’s efficiency. Tyrone kept battling right to the death but the Dubs won this final by pulling up to make it four straight All-Ireland titles in a row.

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)

Weather watch…

THERE’S a good chance of a couple of downpours in Omagh between 4pm and 6pm which is likely to make conditions tricky. Temperatures peaking at 21C.

Who’s the ref?

Joe McQuillan (Cavan)

THE Cavan man didn’t get a look-in for any of this year’s provincial finals and was posted to Fermanagh versus Donegal (Ulster semi-final), Meath versus Laois (Leinster semi-final) and Galway versus Mayo (All-Ireland Qualifier) this summer. His performances were quite good in those games but the prospect of him getting any other big games this summer appears remote.

Betting box…

Tyrone 7/2

Dublin 3/10

Draw 9/1

Handicap betting

Tyrone (+4) 1/1

Dublin (-4) 10/11

Draw (+4) 10/1

First goalscorer

Cathal McShane 13/2

Cormac Costello 9/1

No goalscorer 7/1

Worth a punt

Niall Scully to score anytime 5/1

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