Kevin Madden: Tyrone need hits .. lots of them .. to defeat Dublin

Tyrone's Conall McCann and Kieran McGeary close in on Donegal's Neil Mc Gee. Pictures: Seamus Loughran

“Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”

This famous ‘Freudian’ quote makes me think of this great Dublin team and much of the overhyped analysis around what Tyrone would need to do to have any chance of beating Dublin.

I read Jim McGuinness’s column in the Irish Times last week where he choreographed how Tyrone needed to revert to some extreme form of defensive dark arts to beat Dublin.

Putting every player back inside the defensive ‘45’ refusing to be drawn out and allowing Dublin to have the ball for as long as they want formed the basis of his plan.

In my opinion his suggestion would be an unprecedented exercise of containment and frustration that could only end with a narrative that would tell a story of fear, defeatism and regression.

This would never work against the Dubs of 2018 and as this strategy crashed and burned it would set Tyrone back immeasurably. Mickey Harte and his players can’t afford to lose playing like that.

This method would be like dying a slow yet inevitable death and there is no honour or redemption in that.

Tyrone need to show courage, ambition and positivity from the outset rather than adopt something that will mean ‘game over’ once they would find themselves a few points down.

They cannot leave Croke Park with any regrets. Adopting a more extreme version of what they already do will only negate and regress their attacking plan even further.

Even if this served to limit Dublin to less scores than normal, they never would get enough of their own to win the game.

They must come out all guns blazing, attack the game, attempt to get a foothold and from there they can manage the game and become ultra defensive when needed.

Be like Mayo, except much cuter.

Many are of the opinion that in order for Tyrone to have any chance, Dublin will need to have an off day and absolutely everything must fall right for Mickey Harte’s men. I do not necessarily buy into that simplistic theory as I think Tyrone can control their own destiny but to do so they will need to tweak aspects of their game plan so they can be in a position to dictate the terms.

After the Super 8’s game I spoke about how Tyrone were really competitive without ever looking like winning the game. Unlike that night, they have to be leading for parts of the final to stop the game being dictated on Dublin’s terms.

They must challenge Dublin’s conservative possession based game by forcing them to try things they normally wouldn’t try. Attack them further up the pitch and force them into something they aren’t conditioned to do.

Like what you might say? Kick the ball for a start. Make them kick the ball and if they don’t want to do that then flood the middle third with bodies and make them break tackles before they get anywhere near the Tyrone attacking ‘50.’

This Dublin team have stopped kicking the ball because of the way teams set up against them.

In a perverse sort of way all their opponents have contrived to make them an even more formidable opponent. Nothing is left to chance. They are incredibly calculated.

Kicking is a quicker way to open a team up but in Dublin’s case it is now a riskier strategy.

I believe they aren’t as strong in their full forward line this year and that part of their game may have gone a little stale.

The inside line of Dean Rock, Paul Mannion and Con O’Callaghan managed only two points from play in Omagh - both scored by Rock. Tyrone need to man mark James McCarthy, Jack McCarthy, Brian Fenton and Ciaran Kilkenny. Picking them up later in their defensive phases doesn’t work. Kilkenny is the main point guard of the Dublin attack.

He is the decision maker.

The guy who hoovers around the D with his back to goal and plays the man in.

But he is also the top scorer from play in this year’s championship with a whopping 2-21.

Fenton is the receiver when McCaffrey and McCarthy want to give and go. If picking these guys up sporadically during open play was a remotely useful idea, then I haven’t seen any evidence to date.

They all need man marked the same way as Johnny Small will be detailed to follow Peter Harte, Eoin Murchan on Niall Sludden and so on until all Tyrone’s key men are picked up leaving only Cian O’Sullivan free.

How Tyrone defend the final phase of the Dublin attack when they have their best defensive shape in place will be crucial. Can they reduce that impressive Dublin shot to score ratio somewhere closer to 60% than the 80% that we are accustomed to? Can Tyrone covert 70% of their own chances?

That would be a ruthless standard of efficiency which wasn’t apparent in Omagh but it is one that could tip the balance in their favour. To deliver on the defensive element they can only go with one sweeper and Colm Cavanagh has to be further out around the centre of the D hitting everything that moves.

He can’t be a pawn in the game like he was in Omagh.

He was too close to the Tyrone goal that night so by the time he pushed out to stop danger it was too late.

He must be the enforcer so tweaking his role to make him relevant will be crucial. Dublin must be put under pressure as they attempt to work the chance.

A half block, an overcarry, the wrong shot option and a turnover in the tackle would be massive outcomes as the Tyrone counterattack ignites.

Frank Burns is a brilliant footballer but I don’t think he is particularly strong enough in the tackle to be that sweeper or last line defender.

A real curve ball would be to play Peter Harte in that role.

What would Johnny Small do then? Mickey Harte’s men need to be progressive not regressive.

Play Peter Harte for a period at full forward as well. They must have a go and bring variety to their attacks. Kick the ball early when it’s on.

The Dublin sweeper Cian O’Sullivan will push out to make tackles when Tyrone approach their ‘50.’ Test Cluxton and the Dublin fullback line at that stage on the diagonal.

Float one in between McAliskey and Cooper or Harte and Small.

Engaging in a tactical game of chess will reap no reward and only bring frustration and more question marks about Mickey and his style of play.

This needs to be a furore of intensity with an atmosphere and noise echoing around Croke Park that we only ever hear at hurling matches these days.

They must produce moments to make hair stand on the necks of every man, woman and child.

Zonal defending, containment and game management can follow later.

We need hits and lots of them.

This needs to be a blood bath swimming with big bold Red Hands.

Tyrone must leave an indelible mark on the Dublin psyche early in the game that makes the Air-traffic controller, Jim Gavin, and his team of pilots feel like they are cruising out of control.

They need to die with their boots on.

Treat the cigar for what it is. A bloody cigar.

Anybody got a light?

Verdict: In the words of Nelson Mandela: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” Tyrone by 2

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe from just £1 for the first month to get full access



Today's horoscope


See a different horoscope: