‘We need to take a good look at ourselves, both players and managers’: Tyrone boss Brian Dooher

Tyrone joint manager Brian Dooher on his own without Feargal Logan in front of the Tyrone substitutes.
Tyrone joint manager Brian Dooher on his own without Feargal Logan during the NFL Division 1 match against Derry played at Celtic Park in Derry on Sunday 4th February 2024. Picture Margaret McLaughlin (Margaret McLaughlin Photography )

MANAGERS often insist their teams will bounce back after heavy defeats – but when you’ve suffered your county’s biggest senior loss for almost three-quarters of a century there’s no point making empty promises.

Tyrone joint-boss Brian Dooher was clearly aware that there’s much work and soul-searching to be done after Dublin destroyed them by 21 points in the last round of League Division One on Sunday, the hosts winning 5-18 to 0-12 in Croke Park. Not since an 8-7 to 0-3 in the 1950 Ulster Championship by Cavan has a Tyrone senior side lost by so much.

One consolation is that Tyrone will await the winners of this year’s Ulster SFC preliminary round, so there’s time to take stock, as Dooher accepted:

“We need to take a good look at ourselves, both players and managers going forward for the next three or four weeks to get ready for Monaghan or Cavan in the championship…

“It’s an opportunity for us to settle ourselves again, to get back and get three weeks’ good work done. You have four weeks to the Championship, so you get two to three weeks of good work done.

“You just need to use every day the best way possible to get yourself ready for it.”

Colm Basquel scores Dublin's first of five goals against Tyrone
Dublin v Tyrone - Allianz Football League Division 1 Colm Basquel scores Dublin's first of five goals, in the 13th minute, despite the attention of Kieran McGeary of Tyrone during the Allianz Football League Division 1 match at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Shauna Clinton/Sportsfile (Shauna Clinton / SPORTSFILE/SPORTSFILE)

Tyrone have suffered shellackings before, of course, including in Dooher’s first season in charge with Feargal Logan of 2021, hammered by 16 points away to Kerry in a League semi-final.

The Red Hands recovered to win the All-Ireland, and asked what lessons could be drawn from that experience, Dooher responded:

“There’s a bit of personal responsibility for everybody, first and foremost, and you have to look at yourself in the mirror and see what you did or didn’t do well.

“We start from there, and if we do that all individually, first and then collectively as a group, that’s how we have to start addressing things because, let’s be honest, Dublin got doing what they wanted to do, and to be fair, they worked really hard. They just outworked us and outplayed us once they had the ball.”

Obviously there’s a danger that team morale could be badly damaged by Sunday’s shocking setback, especially with so many younger players in the Tyrone team, as Dooher is aware:

“There is a lot of young boys there, and I suppose it’s a chastening experience for them, but at the same time, at this level of football, there’s very little forgiveness.

“If you don’t turn up every day, you’re going to be found out, and we certainly were, by a very good footballing team.”

However, Dooher believes there’s enough togetherness in the squad to avoid a sustained blow to confidence:

“The one thing is that there’s a very close group there, so we’ll take a look at it, and analyse where we did or didn’t do well.

“There’s a good enough group there, and a tight group, so we just need to get things tightened up and back on track again.

“Obviously there wasn’t much that we did do well there. I suppose there’s some things that we did well, but a lot of other things that we didn’t do.”

Dooher puts great store by video analysis of performances and will go down that route again: “We’ll sit down and look at it on the video and see where it is, whenever we are a bit more in slower time, see what happened and try to address some of the issues.”

However, he was quickly able to identify several areas of concern, at both ends of the pitch:

“The first half we had chances, didn’t take them, got turned over and were punished well for it every time. Didn’t deal with kickouts well at all. Dublin got up the field with no pressure on too many times.

“They run hard and they work hard, but they just got up the field with ease….they weren’t turned back when they were going up the field too many times.

“It’s very hard for a defence to cope with that, if that’s coming at you repeatedly, that everybody gets the ball on their first run where they want it, it’s difficult to cope with, especially against a good team.”