Tyrone tactics? somewhere there must still be room for the oldest cliché of them all: ‘get stuck in'

Tyrone's Niall Sludden kicks goalward as Roscommon's Niall McInerney can only watch during the 2018 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Super 8 clash at Croke Park. Picture: Hugh Russell.

The first weekend of the Super 8s certainly made football the central talking point again.

Unfortunately, not in the way we all expected.

Rather than marvelling at the games there was much discussion of where the game was at.

This was of course just a starting weekend of a new competition so our understanding or appreciation of the factors at work are limited which is hardly the position to be sounding the death knell for football.

It only takes a few classic games to suddenly change the narrative and looking at the pairings this weekend we have every reason for hope.

Tyrone, in a mirror image of last year have hit a serious vein of scoring form in obliterating both Cork and Roscommon.

I got a few remarks regarding how a ‘defensive' team can score 4-24 coming out of the game.

Point taken of course but for me every team attacks and defends but their efforts in forming a defensive shield for me merits the label. Using any singular label to describe a team in our multi-faceted game is of course going to be a great oversimplification of things but for me, defensive is as accurate a term as counter attacking.


Last weekend bore more witness to the overwhelming trend of the past several years: ie: defensive tactics are the most effective in the game.

So why wouldn't teams adopt them?

A team and manager after all is after only one thing, a result.

As shown last week, and a point most of us will have seen for some time, is that ALL teams do it to an extent.

One of the most interesting bits of the whole weekend was Kevin McStay's post-match interview where he essentially openly mused that unless Roscommon adopt a more defensive approach they will not be able to compete at the top.

The negative connotations arise, not for me, in any issue with the teams using them, but unfortunately in the fact that, as the effectiveness of it increases so the games have become poorer in terms of excitement or entertainment.

As stated earlier such impressions can be changed in a flash and this weekend has the potential to have a huge say in the narrative.

More relevant this weekend is in terms of defensive football (yes, I'm sticking to that term), how come Tyrone's well-oiled game plan fell apart against Dublin last year and has anything changed to hope for a different result?

When a team forms a defensive screen, they are allowing a team to have possession in certain areas and invite the opposition into zones where they can force a turnover.

In effect they dictate the terms of engagement. Dublin didn't take the bait and refused to take it into contact.

They had the necessary ability to play through multiple phases and the talent to clinically take the chances eventually created.

The lack of engagement led to one of the most frustrating things from last year's encounter, that Tyrone didn't get to ‘get at' Dublin at all.

The big question is can Tyrone maintain their defensive shape but push out enough to engage Dublin?

The Cork and Roscommon games ended in huge score lines.

Often these scores accelerate as the game progresses. When it is still a game, players don't tend to be gung-ho.

However, as a bit of daylight comes between the sides, then more and more players attack as the cost of being left exposed at the back and suffering a damaging score is much less.

Tyrone's counter attack is at its best when multiple players go full attack.

For Tyrone on Saturday, the fear of an early goal or the fact you are marking the likes of a Rock, Kilkenny, O'Callaghan or Mannion may limit those willing to charge forward.

If it does, Tyrone are caught in the catch-22 of not committing enough to attack, ensuring the decreased effectiveness of their primary weapon.

Trying to get this balance right between engaging with them, committing to the attack and maintaining the tight defence is going to be exceptionally difficult to pull off.

Only a few weeks ago against Meath and Cavan, Tyrone looked a long way from world beaters.

Yet, that all too elusive Plan B of attacking via the full forward line appears to have started to click and, whilst it remains untested against Dublin's calibre, Richard Donnelly undoubtedly is becoming a more effective threat with every game.

Elsewhere there is more cause for optimism; Dublin have not hit top gear and one just hopes this is a true reflection and not them saving up for the big clash in Omagh.

On the team, Niall Sludden is playing himself towards an All-Star, while key men Pete Harte, Matthew Donnelly and Tiernan McCann are all on form.

Most notably, three men not present for last year's game, Conor McAliskey, Frank Burns and Michael McKernan have added significant dynamism and potency to Tyrone's game.

It's worth remembering also, that there is notable pressure on Dublin.

The in-vogue criticism, valid or not, of their inherent advantage of a Croke Park home will never gain more weight than with a good Tyrone result this weekend.

When all is said and done, for me, at a very basic level, Tyrone must bring this game to Dublin, somewhere in the modern game there must still be room for the oldest cliché of them all: ‘get stuck in'!

MONAGHAN were the forgotten men of last week's first round.

Naturally the quiet men of the top teams, they were in the shadow of Kildare's glaring momentum and Roscommon's stunning football against Armagh.

Embarrassingly, having been an admirer of theirs for years, I, like many others, had overlooked their defeat of Dublin in the league, forgot, how of any of the top teams, the new league format would suit them best, how they had beaten Tyrone in one of the only real games of the Championship this year and most of all how they just love laying an ambush.

Their performance was excellent, with all those typical Monaghan qualities of aggressive, honest workrate, sure footed footballers and a bit of star talent up front.

Monaghan now have the chance of breaking their painful quarter-final hoodoo in none other than StTiernach's Park.

Oh, to be a fly on the wall of that Monaghan changing room.

While many talk, of the pressure Kerry are under to get a result, they forget just how historic an opportunity these Monaghan players have before them.

No less than Mayo not winning an All-Ireland, Monaghan not making it to the semi or final has been hard to see.

I reckon they will sense that opportunity and be like men possessed.

For me this could be the game of the weekend.

Kerry are undoubtedly rattled, and I believe are, somewhat like Roscommon and Cork, lacking a conviction in how they are setting up.

Whilst they have great talent, the modern game, has scant regard for that unless all the other things are covered.

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