Tyrone v Dublin a classic? I predict not says Danny Hughes

GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship quarter-final: Tyrone's Niall Sludden holds off Armagh's Ciaran O'Hanlon

As I am writing this column, Bruce Springsteen is playing in the background. ‘Brilliant Disguise’, one of his classics.

Bruce wonders if the woman he looks at is really her or is it a brilliant disguise and does he really trust her, or is it himself he doesn’t trust? It is the ultimate song of self-doubt. I doubt myself continuously. Always have.

Like many others, I thought Armagh would give Tyrone a stern test. I am now left (again) doubting myself as a pundit.

The Armagh v Kildare game was a ‘Brilliant Disguise’ and I fell for it.

I discussed the Armagh v Tyrone game at length with various supporters from both sides.

Tyrone fans were worried yet confident that they had enough firepower.

Armagh were buoyant after the Kildare win and were starting to believe that their team would beat Tyrone. How different it turned out. 

Tyrone are a machine. They have perfected a system that is as effective as it is utterly ruthless.

Only Dublin and Kerry can provide the antidote at this stage.

I know Kieran McGeeney’s approach would have been meticulous, albeit he only had a week to have his ducks in a row.

The problem is that unless you match Tyrone’s athleticism and their skill levels, which Armagh could not do, tactically there is very little else you can do.

Knowing how Tyrone play is one thing, but trying to stop it is an entirely different proposition.

Monaghan had the same problem.

We know how Dublin play, but in the majority of cases, tactically or otherwise, they have not been beaten in the Championship since August 2014 when, infamously, Donegal caught them out.

Both Dublin and Tyrone are quite comfortable in possession and are willing to pass the ball for as long as it takes to eventually break the gain line and penetrate a defence.

Questions: How often do you see Dublin lose possession? How often do they carry the ball into the tackle?

Rarely is the answer on both counts.

They are comfortable playing ‘keep ball’ and even more effective on the counter-attack if possible.

Most other county teams (indeed club teams too) are training to play and set up in the exact same manner as both Dublin and Tyrone.

The problem, though, is that the transition from defence to attack is either too slow with few support runners, or indeed too quick with too many support runners, and one mistake ends in total disaster.

The teams trying to mirror Tyrone and Dublin are not really buying into the system which takes years to perfect.

Also, in a way we are reluctant to admit that Armagh and Monaghan are just not good enough.The players are not there.

It is something I have come to terms with in all my conversations about my playing days.

Yes, we were unlucky and lacked a bit of experience in a few cases, but if we were all honest with ourselves, neither the players or, in some cases, the management were good enough, something very few of us would care to admit to and be honest about.

Neither Dublin nor Tyrone sought overnight success using their respective models of playing.

It has been nurtured, calibrated and now ultimately perfected by the players.

The one thing to be considered is that one system is unique to Tyrone and the other unique to Dublin. They are not the same method of play, even if the systems resemble each other.

That is what makes the semi-final between both counties so intriguing. The evidence simply doesn’t direct itself toward two teams, openly seeking to ‘out-shoot’ one another.

While Tyrone are racking up very large scoring tallies, with the winning margins even more impressive,

Dublin are not exactly holding back when it comes to putting away the opposition early in any game.
Dublin will be patient in their build-up play.

Tyrone will retreat and lie in wait in their defensive half, inviting Dublin into their territory. I would err on the side of caution if you think that it will be a classic.

I can almost guarantee that it will be a hugely competitive and tactical battle, but a classic? I predict not.


Hurling gladiators a lesson for us all

WHEN you compare the hurling semi-final of Galway v Tipperary last weekend with what will come in the football equivalent in Tyrone v Dublin, there will be no contest in terms of entertainment.

The hurling’s match finale reminded me of the movie Gladiator when Maximus turned to the crowd, after defeating a legion of soldiers in the Amphitheatre and shouted ‘Are you not entertained’?

He threw off his helmet and sword and walked away in victory.

Joe ‘Maximus’ Canning.

Hurling is everything that gaelic football is not.

It is a truly manly and treasured game.

Going on 30 minutes, the game was at this stage absorbing and a Galway and Tipperary player charge toward each other, both shoulders and bodies crunching side on like a car crash, with the Tipperary player in possession dumped over the line.

Galway sideline adjudged, with no player from either team questioning the shoulder or the manner.

You translate the same tackle to Saturday’s football games and what you would have had was the player diving into the air, holding his head, worthy of a nine in Olympic diving.

The players from both sides would be waving frantically at each other, ‘issue the ‘black’, no the red card ref’, these objections heard from ‘Ha’penny Bridge’ on the North side.

It is actually sickening to see the level of gamesmanship in gaelic football now.

Top players who are icons in their own county, rolling around the field as if shot by a top marksman.

It happens too often to sit and not comment on it.

Where is the pride in taking a hard tackle and a thump and being able to dust yourself off and say ‘that didn’t hurt’?

‘Is that all you have’?

Unfortunately it is nearly impossible to police.

Diving and faking injury appears to be another uncontrollable from an officiating perspective.

Akin to the recent initiatives to eradicate abuse toward officials, The ‘Give Respect Get Respect’ Campaign should itself transgress to the players themselves.

Respect yourself. Don’t dive.

Hurling players and folk just would not accept it.

Yet we football folk have allowed it.

Shame on us.

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