Kenny Archer: Tyrone’s Dublin drubbing a flashback as much as a setback

Kenny Archer

Kenny Archer

Kenny is the deputy sports editor and a Liverpool FC fan.

Tyrone manager Brian Dooher
Tyrone's joint-manager Brian Dooher

“It’s devastating. It’s not what you expect from players in a Tyrone jersey…I don’t think you could call it a bad day at the office; it’s something much worse than that. It’s a dreadful performance from our team.”

Tyrone joint-manager Brian Dooher at the weekend after his side were destroyed by Dublin?

Nope. Mickey Harte. A decade ago, after a mere 15-point Division One defeat to Kerry (3-15 to 0-9).

“I can’t ever remember a day like it. But it all goes to prove you never know what is around the corner. You have to just to chew it when it comes and hope you can do better the next day. But yeah, it is very, very disappointing.”

That must be Tyrone joint-manager Brian Dooher at the weekend?

Nope again. Mickey Harte again. Four years ago, after a 19-point league loss away to Galway (2-25 to 0-12).

There were extenuating circumstances in that second half collapse, with Tyrone reduced to 13 men as well as losing forward Cathal McShane to a serious leg injury, allowing the Tribesmen to run away with it in the second half.

“I know there will be a lot of talk about the six goals but if you take them out of it then there wasn’t really a whole lot scoring wise between the sides.”

Yep, that was Brian Dooher – but as the goal tally clue tells you, it wasn’t on Sunday, but in the summer of 2021, in a League semi-final, against Kerry, which ended 6-15 to 1-14.

Dooher played down the paucity of the performance that day, but although there were ‘only’ five goals conceded against Dublin on this latest occasion (5-18 to 0-12) the Clann na nGael clubman wasn’t trying to sugar-coat or soften any reaction:

“Call it for what it is – a bit of an embarrassment. It just wasn’t good enough, and we know that.”

‘A bit’ was still being generous.

Shortly before throw-in on Sunday a friend messaged me for a prediction. ‘Dublin to win comfortably’, I replied, knowing that Tyrone had a weakened team.

Honestly, as much as I enjoy being right, I did not like being soooooooo right.

What is it with Tyrone, though?

It’s almost beyond belief that a county which has enjoyed such success this century should suffer such hammerings, hurling scorelines.

Defeats like this don’t happen to Dublin or Kerry, unless I’ve blanked them out of my memory. The Kingdom regarded their recent 10-point loss to the Dubs as a humiliation.

Thrashings are supposed to be for the far lesser lights (with all due respect), struggling teams down in the lower divisions. Naming no names. You know who you are.

For Tyrone though, scorelines like that are simultaneously worrying and yet comforting.

‘My God, that was bad – but, sure, it happens.’

Usually after a particularly heavy loss you have to cast your mind way back – waaaaaaaaaaaaay baaaaaaaaaack – to find something similar.

Not for Tyrone.

It’s less than three years since they were whupped by Kerry in that League semi-final.

Like Dublin on Sunday, Kerry also totalled 33 that day in Killarney, and scored even more goals – six, in that 6-15 to 1-14 romp.

Famously, though, Tyrone, recovered from that to win the All-Ireland, including seeing off Kerry after extra time in the semi-final.

Still, such losses are rather bizarre because Tyrone teams are generally known for their fighting spirit, their ‘do or die’ nature.

Perhaps that’s only in close contests, though.

Maybe the attitude is this: if we’re not going to be competitive (in this match) then we’ll not even try to compete.

After all, Tyrone certainly battled plenty in earlier rounds – starting against Roscommon when winning despite being down to 14 men, in the narrow loss to Galway, the comeback win over Mayo, and then holding off Monaghan as the latter fought to survive in the top flight.

Darragh Canavan
Darragh Canavan grabbed 1-4 as Tyrone overcame Mayo at Healy Park Picture: Margaret McLaughlin

The matches they have lost more easily have been against the better teams in Division One: Derry, Kerry, and – with bells on – Dublin.

Of course, Tyrone were missing quite a few important, experienced players – including former captain and two-time Allstar Padraig Hampsey; his excellent Coalisland clubmate Michael McKernan; new skipper Peter Harte; the versatile Mickey O’Neill; midfielder/forward Conn Kilpatrick; and this season’s undoubted attacking star Darragh Canavan.

Those first four could all have strengthened Tyrone’s rearguard, while Kilpatrick and Canavan would have given the Dublin defenders something more to think about than simply careering up the Croke Park pitch making and taking scores themselves.

One of the great aspects of the league is that most teams are usually fairly closely matched in ability.

But perhaps Dublin are just too good. After all, they’d won their previous four league outings by a cumulative margin of 30 points.

How this younger group of players reacts to that result will be intriguing.

They’ll surely believe that they can beat Monaghan or Cavan, whichever of them comes out of the Ulster SFC preliminary round.

However, will they feel the same way if they progress to meet either Derry or Donegal?

Will those younger players have suffered psychological damage about their ability to compete at the highest level? Or can they shrug Sunday off?

Tyrone won’t win the All-Ireland this year; well, almost certainly not.

Many of us thought that too in 2008 and they collected ‘Sam’ for the third time that season.

Yet although Red Hands players love to prove doubters wrong, this is a much rawer, less experienced outfit, even if some bigger names return soon.

The young players will have to show that they have the right stuff for the bigger, more testing occasions.

On Sunday too many of them were passive, seemingly accepting their fate from a fairly early stage.

In contrast, the oldest Red Hand was the one who clearly exhibited his frustration as Dublin ran over, past, and round them: Mattie Donnelly, roaring and gesturing at a team-mate, exhorting more effort, or better positioning, or…something. Anything.