GAA Football

Dooher preparing Tyrone for hard work needed to beat Mayo

Tyrone's joint-manager Brian Dooher. Pic Philip Walsh

EVERYTHING has to be earned. Possession, praise, prizes.

Brian Dooher never got or gave anything easy on the pitch as a player and now as Tyrone's joint-manager he's no different.

If playing qualities can be transferred into managerial leadership then Dooher is the perfect man for his current role and for the All-Ireland Final to come.

A team moulded in his industrious, incessant, inspirational image will be required to overcome a Mayo side which has been re-shaped but remains as voracious for All-Ireland success as ever.

Turning over a question as speedily as he snaffled the ball in his playing days, Dooher switched an attempt at comparing this Tyrone team to those he starred on in the Noughties into praise for their upcoming opponents:

"This team has worked hard. It's hard to compare teams: teams move on, different players come along, but all you want is teams to give of their best, work as hard as they can, and that's what they did [against Kerry in the semi-final]. They really upped their work-rate, their intensity, and that's what we wanted to see.

"And we're going to need to see a lot more of that, because that's Mayo's key strength, their work-rate, their intensity off the ball. That's one of the biggest challenges we're going to face."

Not just from their backs, of course, as Dooher emphasised: "particularly from the forward and midfield units never mind their defence, their tackling and their intensity there, and a lot of teams have experienced that this year. I know one of the keys to Mayo's success has been their work-rate generally all around the field."

Dooher himself was the archetypal hard-tackling, hard-running half-forward, and knows such efforts contribute significantly to winning matches:

"You've to earn the right to play football and Mayo definitely earn the right, they work hard to earn the right to play football and you're going to have to work equally hard to earn that right to play football against them."

In a twist on the eternal 'nature vs nurture' debate, the query is put to Dooher if such intensity comes from within or can it be trained?

"There's a bit of both but I suppose most of it comes from within, if you want to do that. It's not the nicest part of football. It's energy-sapping, it's hard work. You can create the environment in training but you have to really want it in a match and thankfully that our lads do want that to an extent."

Whether Tyrone's efforts will be enough to overcome Mayo remains to be seen, especially in terms of scoring against them:

"Mayo have been there or thereabouts over the last 10 years plus, they're always there, always knocking on the door, consistently they've been there. They have a phenomenal outfit the year, deservedly so.

"They held Dublin to 13 points, which a lot of people never talk about, no team ever held them near to that in normal time. That's evidence of the workrate that they put in all around the field, not just in defence, and they put up some big scores the year as well."

So that's the tough part.

Watching your team play well and win must be enjoyable though, right? Right?

"I'm not sure, I'm not sure if it's enjoyment or not, maybe it's enjoyment afterwards if you win them. They're just a challenge and I suppose you enjoy the challenge of it, that's probably what you do enjoy more, but it's hard to know if 'enjoyment' would be the word for some of the stuff - you could probably think of better things. Whenever it's going well it's alright but things don't always go well for you."

All-Ireland Finals went great for Dooher, winning in 2003, 2005, and 2008, but he laughs when asked about enjoying the build-up to finals:

"That was a long time ago, I kind of forget now to be honest. I think you're just caught in the moment, you just want to train every night and that's all you want, you just want to be out training and playing football.

"It just flies past so quick and to be honest it's kind of a blur to me. It's just come to training every night, do the best you can, and hope you don't get injured."

Dooher the player might have preferred this year's strange circumstances, then, with players more sealed off from supporters due to fears over Covid. Yet he says that the current crop are still having a good time:

"Aye, the players can enjoy it surely. They come here [to Tyrone's training centre at Garvaghey] and they just have to be sensible about it, probably with Covid and that at the minute it's not as enjoyable.

"The media nights and the supporters' nights aren't what you used to have but it is what it is. They'll come here and they enjoy coming training, they enjoy being in each other's company, that's what they really do enjoy. They come in here and they work hard and hopefully they'll work hard enough and prepare hard enough."

The shorter build-up to the All-Ireland Final might have been to his liking as a player too, and he can see the benefits of matches on a fortnightly basis for his current charges:

"I think it's a good enough system, it is what it is in the environment that we're in, we have to expect it because this is what we knew we were getting.

"Ideally, everyone wants more preparation but players want games, they don't want a lot of training so from a player point of view it's perfect, they just want game, game, game.

"You probably find players improve more playing games and you learn more about them so from that point of view it's probably helpful too. It mightn't give you ideal time for preparing all the time but it is what it is.

"We took the League one game at a time, we'd some good performances and some poor performances.

"We've managed to win the Championship games so far, they haven't been all perfect but we take the learning out of each of them and hopefully put some of that into practice the next day. It's just a momentum that you try to build over the season. Sometimes it goes for you and sometimes it doesn't."

Tyrone, under Dooher, certainly won't fall short for effort.

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