GAA Football

Tyrone could serve Dublin with an eviction notice and lift themselves closer to safety

The Tyrone bench celebrate their goal near the end of their Division One round five win over Dublin at Healy Park on February 29, 2020.
Pic: Philip Walsh

Allianz Division One, round five: Tyrone v Dublin (Healy Park, 3.45pm tomorrow, live on TG4)


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Going up


The concern for Dublin is if that last line changes tomorrow.

The Dubs have had it all over the past 11 seasons, 2011-2021: eight All-Irelands, six Division one titles (last year’s shared, uncontested, with Kerry), and, of course, 11 Leinsters.

Yet even their hold on the latter is being questioned this year.

They could still win their province, and regain the ‘Sam Maguire’ if they do go down, as they did - albeit dubiously, against Tyrone, in 1995.

However, the concern would be over the longer-term effects, on and off the field. No team has won the All-Ireland from outside the top flight since Armagh did so 20 years ago.

In financial terms, the sponsorships, the brandings, the freebies may all reduce for Dublin.

A team surrounded by an aura of invincibility, unbeaten in senior Championship action from the 2014 All-Ireland semi-final until the same stage last year - and even then only losing after extra time - has now lost four league games in a row.

Not since the 1983/4 campaign, when they were relegated from Division One, have the Dubs lost so many league matches.

Of course, just as it wasn’t the same Dublin team winning ‘Sam’ after ‘Sam’, including six in a row, so this is not the same side even as the 2021 version.

For one thing - or 48 things - manager Dessie Farrell and his selectors have deployed almost a half-century of players so far this season, in O’Byrne Cup and League.

It’s almost half a century since Dublin lost five times in the league, doing so in 1972/73, to go down to Division Two.

Having said that, they’re not down yet, and there was still a huge amount of talent and experience in the line-up that lost away to Kildare last time out.

Ten starters from that All-Ireland semi-final against Mayo: Comerford, Byrne, Fitzsimons, Cooper, Howard, John Small, Fenton, Scully, Kilkenny, and Rock.

Of course, with all due respect to the first name on that list, the Dubs haven’t been the same since long-serving captain and goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton stepped away, but they obviously have to move on.

This match isn’t all about Dublin, clearly.

Tyrone are still in danger of the drop themselves, seeking to avoid being the first All-Ireland champions to be relegated from Division One since Donegal in 2013.

However, at least the Red Hands have been showing fight, beating Kildare in round three and playing well but not taking their chances in defeat at Donegal’s Ballybofey fortress.

Tyrone showed grit to see off Kildare despite missing the four players red-carded late on in the deserved defeat at Armagh, having battled for a point in the home opener against Monaghan.

Feargal Logan and Brian Dooher’s men host Mayo next weekend, a repeat of last year’s All-Ireland decider, then travel to take on Kerry. Those two counties are currently the top two in this division, so taking at least a point today is probably imperative for Tyrone to ensure their own top flight survival.

Defeat might demote Dublin, depending on earlier results today and tomorrow, in the Armagh-Kildare and Donegal-Monaghan matches.

A home win would take Tyrone a step closer to safety.

The Red Hands must be fancied to grasp that lifeline, although they are the lowest scorers in this division so far, with only 2-42 (48) registered, and 4-45 (57) conceded, with the defence missing the injured Ronan McNamee.

Still, Dublin’s problems at the back have been even bigger, starting from their kick-outs, continuing to conceding 6-53 (71), with no clean sheets so far.

The boys in blue have only scored 1-48 (51), that solitary goal coming in the opening loss against Armagh.

First goal could be the winner in what will probably be another tight, tense tussle to add to the tales of the Tyrone-Dublin rivalry. The Dubs demoted Tyrone in 2010, heralding their dominance over the next decade.

The Red Hands are now seeking a third consecutive league win over what appears to be a fading force. The last meeting brought a half-time tunnel brawl before a 1-10 to 1-7 Tyrone victory in dreadful weather conditions.

It might be standing room only to see in which direction Dublin are going in the Healy Park elevator.

‘Are you being served?’ The burgers could be slow coming, all right.

Yet ‘Are you not entertained?’ is the likelier question about what’s sure to be gladiatorial combat in the Omagh coliseum.


Tyrone: TBC

Dublin: TBC

Referee: Barry Cassidy (Derry).

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