Dublin 1-9 Tyrone 0-12
A second draw for Tyrone, an equally disappointing result for Dublin with so many All-Ireland winners back on deck and really a mere footnote in a season yet to spread its wings.
To beat Tyrone the trick is to catch them before they settle into their system. Thereafter, it’s like playing football with your head in a vice.
Not that Eoghan O’Gara has ever had any problems in such a suffocating situation.
As time ticked towards the 70 O’Gara gathered Shane Carthy’s shot after it ricocheted off the post. Two Tyrone defenders were out muscled before he lofted a hand pass to the deadly accurate Dean Rock.
All alone on the square’s edge, Rock fisted to the net.
That levelled matters. Sean Cavanagh had been fairly muted, a few pointed frees but little else, but he awoke to draw a late free out of Carthy dead in front of the posts.
Niall Morgan trotted the length of the field, all very Stephen Cluxton like, to ensure his fifth free of the day would bring the curtain down on this dour affair one way or the other.
Morgan missed it. He was off target with four shots in what can only be seen as a poor day’s work by the Tyrone goalkeeper.
The opening stanza was a picture of minimalism. A little niggle, not a lot. Sparks off returning superstars like Bernard Brogan, alas no flame.
The 27,469 pair of eyes, mostly boys, were at least buoyed by the weather. Not summer, but getting there.
Small signs of what lies ahead. Brogan opened his account for 2015 with a nifty point after 14 minutes but was blocked down moments later. Ronan McNamee and Justin McMahon were keeping close tabs on him.
All the while Tyrone raided forward but had to settle for a 0-6 tie at the interval, which really should have been a decent lead as Morgan registered two of their six first half wides.
Dublin’s other scores came off Rock’s trusty frees and the one from play. Usual Tyrone. Any time a blue carrier crept near the posts a white clad defender gently hauled him to ground. All very subtle, not enough for David Gough to go rooting for cards.
The Meath whistler did show a yellow to Dublin’s imposing midfielder Emmett Ó Conghaile for a mistimed shoulder into Ronan McNabb’s back.
Tyrone didn’t look better just craftier. The tactical failings of Jim Gavin’s outfit last September remain. Or more accurately the Ulster counties have a trusted formula, providing Cluxton doesn’t spray the ball up field early.
No road running from Jack McCaffrey. No room. Whenever they attacked an organised set of white lines awaited. Only Rory O’Carroll and Cathal McShane were left in the Dublin half at times.
Still, cranky and all this spectacle was, it was an interesting sparring session.
Gavin sprung Cian O’Sullivan after 27 minutes for an anonymous Denis Bastick with Paul Flynn’s whizzing presence joined by O’Gara for act two. The heavy artillery basically as an inaccurate Ciarán Kilkenny and Paddy Andrews made way.
Not much changed though. The first glut of scores came when Matty Donnelly then Barry Tierney pointed in quick succession to make it 0-9 to 0-7. Rock instantly responded with his second from play.
On went this rudimentary contest. Brogan began to stretch his and McNamee’s legs. One such dart to the left wing resulted in a bobbling cross finding Flynn. He levelled matters at 0-9 apiece.
But the wides kept racking up alongside the scores.
Mark Bradley and McCurry’s left foot edged Tyrone clear again as matters entered the final 10 minutes.
Only for Cluxton’s excellence the northerners would have finished the game off. Mattie Donnelly got inside the last line and fed Tiernan McCann but Cluxton waited and waited before blocking the low shot.
Still, Cavanagh’s free soon after ensured a three point cushion.
Then came Rock’s goal.
Then Cavanagh drew that free only for Morgan to post his fourth wide from five shots. A night he will remember. Unfortunately. The rest of us won’t.
Dublin: S Cluxton; E Culligan, R O’Carroll, J Cooper; N Devereux, P McMahon, J McCaffrey; D Bastick, E Ó Conghaile (0-1); T Brady, D Rock (1-6, four frees), C Kilkenny; K McManamon, P Andrews, B Brogan (0-1).
Substitutes: C O’Sullivan for D Bastick (28 min), E O’Gara for P Andrews, P Flynn (0-1) for C Kilkenny (both half-time), J McCarthy for P McMahon (58 min), S Carthy for E Ó Conghaile (64 min), C Costello for T Brady (67 min).
Tyrone: N Morgan (0-1, free); A McCrory, R McNamee, C McCarron; R McNabb, Justin McMahon (0-1), P Harte; C Cavanagh (0-1), P McNulty; T McCann, M Donnelly (0-1), B Tierney (0-1); D McCurry (0-2, two frees), S Cavanagh (0-4, four frees), C McShane. Substitutes: M Bradley (0-1) for C McShane (half-time), PJ Lavery for C McCarron (55 min), C McCann for B Tierney (58 min).
Referee :D Gough (Meath).