Football

Tyrone's Croke Park streak under serious threat from Dublin

Allianz Football League Division One, round seven: Dublin v Tyrone (Croke Park, Sunday, 1.45pm)

Dublin's Brian Howard is challenged by Tyrone defender Michael McKernan. Picture Seamus Loughran
Dublin's Brian Howard is challenged by Tyrone defender Michael McKernan. Picture Seamus Loughran Dublin's Brian Howard is challenged by Tyrone defender Michael McKernan. Picture Seamus Loughran

STRANGE as this may sound, Tyrone head down to Dublin protecting an incredible record at Croke Park.

It’s 11 years since the Red Hands lost there in the League to the Dubs – and even that was in a League Final. By a point.

Rather remarkably, Tyrone have never lost a ‘group’ game at GAA headquarters to Dublin.

That’s not just ‘one of those stats’ either, one which is affected by an absence of meetings.

Admittedly, for various reasons, including Covid-affected seasons and Dublin being in Division Two last year, it’s now five years since this particular fixture took place.

Yet in the six regular League matches at Croke between these two counties from 2007 to 2019, Tyrone have won four and drawn too.

Sure, they’ve always been tight, with two one-point games, one two-point win, and the biggest margin being the three-point difference five years ago, 1-14 to 1-11.



A number of factors suggest that Tyrone’s run is set to come to an end though.

Dublin would have been favourites in almost all those matches - certainly those in 2013, 2015, 2017, and 2019 – but that status is probably enhanced even more on this occasion.

One element is that the Dubs need to win to make sure of their place in the Division One Final. Given their utter dominance of the Leinster Championship, there’s no reason for Dublin to worry about the adverse affect an appearance in the League decider might have on them in the aftermath.

Dublin v Monaghan 9.jpg
Dublin v Monaghan 9.jpg Dublin v Monaghan 9.jpg

Dessie Farrell’s men seem to be building up a head of steam since the opening defeat by Monaghan, even if that was followed by another loss to Mayo, a game Dublin really should have won.

While Dublin appear to be on an upward curve this season, reeling off four consecutive victories, Tyrone’s results graph looks like a series of peaks and troughs.

The Red Hands haven’t managed to put together back-to-back wins and, even though that opportunity presents itself after beating Monaghan last time out, talking about consistency and achieving it are two very different matters.

There is indeed no ‘i’ in ‘team’ but, as someone pointed out recently, there are five in ‘individual brilliance’.

The individual brilliance of Darragh Canavan has been a massive factor in Tyrone’s survival in the top flight, but the Errigal Ciaran lad needs more scoring support than from just Darren McCurry.

Darragh Canavan celebrates his brilliant goal against Monaghan at Healy Park. Picture Margaret McLaughlin
Darragh Canavan celebrates his brilliant goal against Monaghan at Healy Park. Picture Margaret McLaughlin

Unfortunately Dublin also have individual brilliance combined with a practised team template.

The problem for the Tyrone defence is the All-Ireland champions appear even more attacking this season, augmenting their patient possession game with quicker, longer kicking into their wide range of stellar forwards.

Tyrone do at least head down to Dublin under no pressure of relegation and with the confidence of a win last time out against Monaghan.

The upside was that Tyrone recorded their highest tally of the season, 1-19.

The downside was that they were almost clawed back by the team that has struggled against almost everyone else.

Admittedly Monaghan did defeat Dublin, but that round one result seems an awful long time ago now.

Dublin have definitely improved immensely since then, with their four wins coming by a cumulative 30 point margin.

The Dubs know that a fifth victory in a row almost certainly assures them of a place in the final, given their superior scoring difference to Kerry, and their win over them, if it comes down to head-to-head.

Tyrone boss Brian Dooher has been able to bring back in some much-needed experience, including Kieran McGeary and Cathal McShane, while Mattie Donnelly came off the bench.

Colm Basquel was man of the match for Dublin against Kildare
Colm Basquel was man of the match for Dublin against Kildare last year Colm Basquel was man of the match for Dublin against Kildare last year

Worryingly, though, for everyone else, Dublin’s depth of talent is obvious, with Colm Basquel, Jack McCaffrey, Paul Mannion, and Lorcan O’Dell all brought on against Galway in Salthill.

As he’d said he would after winning in Derry, Dessie Farrell was able to try out a few different starters and Dublin were still much too strong for Galway, beaten by eight points.

Tyrone will do well to avoid a similar fate, never mind simply avoiding defeat.