GAA Football

Hard Tyrone edge softens up Dessie Farrell's Dubs

Tyrone goalscorer Rory Brennan chases Dublin’s Kevin McManamon, who had his side's late chance to peg Tyrone back. Picture by Philip Walsh
From Cahair O'Kane at Healy Park

Allianz Football League Division One: Tyrone 1-10 Dublin 1-7

ON the harshest of nights, there was no room for softness.

In his pre-match shrub testing, referee Cormac Reilly might as well have been throwing the ball into the pool at Omagh Leisure Centre as some of the patches it was landing in.

As sheets of rain tumbled relentlessly, it was on, it was still on, and then just when it looked to be off, it was on again.

Dessie Farrell claimed he was told it was only played because of live TV coverage.

And to be frank, Dublin looked like a team that did not want to be there. No shame in that, given that you wouldn’t have put the dog out in it, but it was their undoing.

The basics that they are such famous masters of deserted them completely. Five-yard handpasses going to feet, kick-passes out over the sideline, balls fumbled.

“There was a bit of that to be sure,” said Farrell when asked if there was an element of not going full-tilt because of conditions.

“That would be natural enough but credit to both sides they went at it. It takes a bit of courage to do that but that is no excuse because it was difficult for both sides.

“They showed that bit more hunger and appetite, while turnovers killed us in that game.”

No shame, but it was something Tyrone could get their teeth into. The way they tore into Dublin and won the physical battle hands down will have given them the biggest rush.

Because it was a victory all about guts. No McShane, no Donnelly, beaten by 19 points in Tuam, facing the All-Ireland champions.

Mickey Harte hinted that he’d put a rocket up them in Kelly’s Inn when they met for food beforehand, drawing minds back to the abject nature of their own contribution to a 19-point loss in Tuam.

“I’ve been managing Tyrone teams for 30 years now, since 1991, and I never suffered a defeat like that at any level.

“Of course I was stung, and they were stung. I shared that sting with them tonight before they came here.”

When Frank Burns beat three Dublin favourites to a loose ball just before half-time, taking a belt and winning a free, it was clear that Tyrone were emboldened by all that had happened in the first 35 minutes.

The Dubs have been a funny colour thus far in 2020 and once the game settled from Colm Basquel’s unstoppable early goal, it was clear that they were not coping with the conditions.

Tyrone were better, and sublime with their shooting. Niall Morgan’s four frees, Rory Brennan’s 1-1, Peter Harte’s two points, Liam Rafferty’s fisted effort, Conor Meyler’s drilled shot – go down the list and there wasn’t a bad score among them.

Nor hardly a bad performance, either.

Despite the monsoon that Storm Jorge unleashed on only the hardiest souls, there was an eminently watchable quality about the game.

Basquel’s rocket was chipped away at by the wind-cutting home side, who were back level at 0-4 to 1-1 after 22 minutes.

Brian Fenton might have had a second goal off an almost identical swivel but his shot flashed over.

The way Dublin worked their final score of the half suggested they’d worked it out a bit, literally flashing the ball from hand-to-hand like a basketball team until Ciaran Kilkenny won his free for Rock to point.

But Peter Harte, who was free of John Small and produced a massive performance from full-forward, turned to kick another equaliser off Liam Rafferty’s good work.

Right from an early attack when the young Galbally man turned the ball over at corner-back and sprinted 100 yards to eventually have the shot which dropped short, he was outstanding.

He came so close to a goal right on half-time when his driven effort came careering back out off the crossbar.

The Healy Park crowd were making their voices heard, the pride that had been drained from them in Galway coming bubbling back up through their vital organs.

It was hard to know who won the row at half-time. One TV camera panned in from too far out, while a phone stuck its neb in from above but gathered little meaningful evidence. It wasn’t pretty, but it certainly didn’t do Tyrone any harm psychologically.

All that was prescribed by Cormac Reilly afterwards was a black card for Padraig Hampsey. Given the rather black-and-white nature of black card offences, it would be nice if someone explained that one.

Conditions refused to relent and the game seemed to get stuck in a time-warp for a while then. Tyrone were still playing well, still defending well, and yet three Dublin scores on the bounce left the home side 1-5 to 0-6 behind.

Two points seemed plenty significant the way it was, but then just as Niall Morgan planted a monstrous free from 48 metres, Niall Scully had a nibble at Ben McDonnell off the ball and earned himself a black card.

Because he did it in open play, he gave away a free. Morgan was defying the laws of physics, nailing everything from everywhere, and even from halfway out the Gortin Road it was no surprise that he put Tyrone ahead at 0-9 to 1-5.

He landed similarly magical efforts twice either side of that. Dean Rock’s two efforts were much handier and left it poised at 0-10 to 1-7 with five to go.

Just as Scully was itching to return, Tyrone won the game. Again Rafferty was at the heart, combining with Tiernan McCann to send Rory Brennan in on goal. He hadn’t a second’s hesitation and from a fair distance, the Trillick man gave Comerford no chance.

Everyone to this point had toyed with beating Dublin, but none had held the armbar until they passed out. A 68th minute goal wasn’t even guaranteed to get rid of them mind. In an instant they weaved an incredible handpassing move through on goal that only fell down with Kevin McManamon’s shot as he slipped.

Tyrone, for pure desire alone, got what they deserved.

They’ve had a taste before and know fine well that championship dishes have a different flavour, but given events in Tuam, they’ll lap it up.


Tyrone: N Morgan (0-4 frees); M Cassidy, R McNamee, L Rafferty (0-1); M McKernan, R Brennan (1-1), M O’Neill; C Cavanagh, P Hampsey, B Kennedy; F Burns, N Sludden, C Meyler (0-1); P Harte (0-2), D McCurry (0-1 free)

Subs: B McDonnell for Kennedy (HT), T McCann for M O’Neill (45), K Coney for Sludden (60), R O’Neill for McKernan (65), N Kelly for Hampsey (71)

Black cards: P Hampsey (35-45)

Yellow card: M McKernan (49)

Dublin: E Comerford; M Fitzsimons, E O’Brien; D Byrne, E Murchan, C O’Shea (0-1), N Scully (0-1); B Fenton (0-1), J McCarthy; B Howard, C Kilkenny, S Bugler; P Mannion, D Rock (0-4 frees), C Basquel (1-0)

Subs: J McCaffrey for O’Brien (HT), K McManamon for Bugler (47), J Small for Fitzsimons (49), C Costello for Basquel (61), A Byrne for McCaffrey (65)

Black card: N Scully (57-67)

Yellow cards: B Howard (38), S Bugler (38), M Fitzsimons (43)

Referee: C Reilly (Meath)

Attendance: 3,850

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