Dean Rock keeps Dublin’s roll going with two late points to secure League title over Tyrone
Jim Gavin’s side come out on top by a single point after entertaining final in Croke Park
Dublin’s Bernard Brogan gets his shot away despite the efforts of Justin McMahon and Conor Gormley of Tyrone in yesterday’s final. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/inpho
In the end, Dublin had a single point to spare for their first title in 20 years but though Tyrone hated the taste of defeat they were still able to swallow without too much of a wince. “I don’t think we could have got much more out of the league other than winning it,” conceded Mickey Harte afterwards.
They very nearly got that too – even without the good offices of Stephen O’Neill who injured himself in the warm-up by standing on a rogue ball and twisting his ankle.
But although Conor McAliskey showed himself to be an able enough deputy for the first three-quarters of an hour, Tyrone struggled for an outlet without their captain. Their over-reliance on frees was a lasso halting their gallop in the closing 20 minutes.
Before an injury-time point from Seán Cavanagh, Harte’s side hadn’t scored from play since the 50th minute. It meant the final score was 0-18 to 0-17 and the four Dublin had scored from play in that period were the winning of the game. In particular, two towering kicks from substitute Dean Rock loaded the dice in their favour right at the point at which Tyrone looked to be about to dig out a signature win.
Having missed most of the league because of Ballymun’s run to the All-Ireland final, Rock picked a hell of a time to score his first and second points of the year in a Dublin jersey. Jim Gavin warned back in February that the Ballymun players might struggle to find a way into his championship side, purely through a lack of opportunities.
With the Dubs’ first summer outing just over a month off in the distance, Rock couldn’t have sent up a brighter flare.
“The biggest thing,” said Gavin afterwards when asked about the day’s worth, “is that it endorses and reinforces the work that we are doing on the training field. It’s a bit of tin and I’m sure in five weeks’ time Carlow or Westmeath won’t care what Dublin have done.
“That’s all it is – endorsing the work that we have done. Other than that, it’s something that the players will look back on when their careers are over. I’m a big believer in looking forward to the future and the next challenge. That’s only five weeks’ away.”
So all in all, nothing much to get excited about. Which is not to say that there was nothing much to enjoy. Some of the score-taking in the first half especially was easy on the eye – Diarmuid Connolly floating over a couple for Dublin and young McAliskey responding in kind for Tyrone.
Dublin’s midfield partnership of Michael Darragh Macauley and Cian O’Sullivan won a year’s ration of ball from kick-outs and in truth, Dublin should have had a lead to show for it at the break rather than the 0-10 to 0-10 scoreline the had to settle for.
But as the game wore on, it became clear that the dead-aim place-kicking of goalkeeper Niall Morgan was Tyrone’s most secure route to goal. And against a Dublin side that was able to source points from five of their starting forwards and two substitutes, that was always likely to come up short.
Degree of confidence
Gavin’s side are bouncing just now and the news that of their injured players only Alan Brogan will be unavailable for the start of the championship will sound ominous to most ears. Tyrone, though, will be one of the few sides unfazed from here on out by whatever Dublin have to offer.
They went home without the cup yesterday. They didn’t go home without a degree of confidence for the road ahead.
In the Division Two final, Derry were able to flex a bit of late muscle to come out on top against a Westmeath team that didn’t deserve the 1-18 to 0-15 scoreline that will go in the books.
Although a little lacking in the quality of the second game, this too was thoroughly enjoyable fare for the most part and entering the 70th minute the two sides stood dead level on 0-15 apiece.
But just as Rock would do for Dublin, substitute Emmet McGuckin stood up and closed out the game for Derry. His goal in the 73rd minute was a triumph for the change of the square ball rule and his point with the next attack was pure icing. Yet Westmeath won’t mourn those last four minutes any more than Derry will rejoice in them.
Like indoor fireworks, the whole afternoon was entertaining but harmless. No shame in that.