Dublin impress in road test as Tyrone keep chasing until the end

Jim Gavin’s side secure semi-final spot as Tyrone head to Ballybofey for Donegal showdown

Tyrone 0-14 Dublin 1-14

Well, Dublin won and became this year's first All-Ireland semi-finalists with a match to spare but only after an elemental struggle culminated in a calming point kicked by Paul Flynn to seal a three-point win after the hardest match of the championship for Jim Gavin's side.

The new Super 8s quarter-final format burst into life in Omagh on Saturday evening. At stages the champions looked like they might simply stretch away over the horizon but Tyrone resisted with everything they had and in a lengthy injury-time, with the home crowd in Healy Park urging them on, they actually threatened the outcome.

In the end though, they came out on top, taking home the two points and making their own unspoken statement about the team’s ability to cope on the road in a testing encounter.


It was never going to be like last year’s chastening All-Ireland semi-final, as Tyrone had considerably undersold themselves on that occasion and the contest more resembled the counties’ league meeting last February when the match went point-for-point for most of the first three quarters with the crucial exception that Mickey Harte’s team stayed at it even after they had fallen six points behind with an hour on the clock.

His replacements off the bench sparked a revival however, with Mark Bradley making inroads and they out-scored Dublin by 0-6 to 0-3 in the closing phase of a gripping contest with Bradley, Kieran McGeary and Harry Loughran accounting for four of those.

In a way there was something for both teams in that it represented a terrific improvement for Tyrone, but Harte still has to take his team to the generally unyielding pastures of Ballybofey for what will be an old-style, winner-takes-all quarter-final in two weeks.

Dublin won't have been wholly satisfied. Stephen Cluxton's kick-outs went awry at times and although Gavin was satisfied that the narrowing of the pitch by about five metres – Mickey Harte said it was at broadcaster Sky's request in order to accommodate their "technology" – hadn't impacted on his goalkeeper, although a couple of the re-starts did go out over the sideline.

It was a typical Dublin performance. They defended really well until the late run, snuffing out Tyrone’s attacks and holding their hitherto free-scoring opponents to a more manageable 0-14 – for instance less than half of what they had put up against a hapless Roscommon the previous week.

Their key forwards were kept quiet until the cavalry arrived off the bench.

John Small repeated last year's restraining order on Peter Harte, who started very well, but managed just a point from play . Niall Sludden was expertly shepherded by newcomer Eoin Murchan, who had opened his starting account a week earlier with an impressive job on Ryan McHugh and who this time kept his man scoreless, although committing a foul of the ball for a pointed free .

If anything was reminiscent of last August it was the tour de force tackling exhibition by Dublin's corner forward Paul Mannion, who effected four turnovers in the first half. One was exceptional after Cathal McShane had got free behind the defensive cover and was racing in on goal when the Kilmacud man hunted him down and got a hand in to dispossess.

The first half was like a chess match, all set moves and alternating attacks. Tyrone were successful in turning over Dublin forwards and countering but lacked penetration when the opportunities came. They still managed to go in at half-time just two behind, having launched a mini-comeback when it looked at 0-6 to 0-3 on 30 minutes as if Dublin might open up on them in the minutes before the break.

Connor McAliskey took a point off the deficit within a minute of the re-start but the third quarter was moving time for Dublin. Ciarán Kilkenny, whose keep-ball proficiencies were a lot more urgent this week, answered with a point.

The key score, which separated the teams at the finish, came on the 40th minute. During one of Dublin's exploratory attacks, shifting the ball backwards and forwards and sideways, James McCarthy, starting at centrefield, played a 1-2 with Brian Fenton, again a tower of strength in the middle, and surged through the defence for a shot at goal.

Niall Morgan saved well but McCarthy got a hand to the rebound to slap it into the net and suddenly there were five between the teams, 1-8 to 0-7.

They pushed on, adding another three points with just a McAliskey 45 in reply to lead by six.

Tyrone made strenuous efforts to exploit the new string to their bow this season, Richie Donnelly's presence on the edge of the square. Ironically one of the most testing dropping balls came from the Trillick full forward rather than at him and Jonny Cooper had to scramble to rescue the situation.

A run of three points into injury-time, two from McGeary, one a brilliant finish from the sideline, reduced the margin to two, 0-14 to 1-13 and Dublin looked rattled. Cluxton’s re-start went out over the sideline and Ronan O’Neill sent a late free wide but Dublin, whose attacks had lapsed a little into imprecision, held final possession, moving the ball around until replacement Flynn, coolly finished the last point of a memorable encounter.

TYRONE: 1 Niall Morgan; 2 Michael McKernan (0-1), 3 Ronan McNamee, 4 HP McGeary; 5 Tiernan McCann (0-1), 6 Frank Burns (0-1), 12 Conor Meyler; 8 Colm Cavanagh, 9 Pádraig Hampsey; 7 Peter Harte (0-3, two frees), 10 Matthew Donnelly (capt), 13 Cathal McShane (0-2); 11 Niall Sludden, 14 Richard Donnelly, 15 Connor McAliskey (0-2, one 45).

Subs: 19 Rory Brennan for McNamee (34 mins), 17 Mark Bradley (0-1) for McAliskey (55 mins), 24 Kieran McGeary (0-2) for Burns (56 mins), 22 Declan McClure for Cavanagh (64 mins), 20 Harry Loughran (0-1) for Meyler (65 mins), 26 Ronan O'Neill for Sludden (73 mins).

DUBLIN: 1 Stephen Cluxton (capt); 7 Jonny Cooper, 4 Philip McMahon (0-1), 24 Eoin Murchan; 22 Jack McCaffrey (0-1), 3 Cian O'Sullivan, 26 John Small (0-1); 6 James McCarthy (1-0), 8 Brian Fenton; 10 Niall Scully, 12 Con O'Callaghan, 5 Brian Howard (0-1); 13 Dean Rock (0-6, four frees), 11 Ciarán Kilkenny (0-2), 14 Paul Mannion.

Subs: 18 Cormac Costello for Mannion (46 mins), 23 Kevin McManamon (0-1) for Scully (51 mins), 2 Michael Fitzsimons for McMahon (57 mins), 9 MD Macauley fo McCarthy (68 mins), 20 Paul Flynn (0-1) for Howard (55 mins), 19 Darren Daly for Small (66 mins).

Referee: David Coldrick (Meath).

Attendance: 16,205

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times