Tyrone 0-8 Dublin 0-13
Dublin finally got their Allianz League campaign up and running in Omagh on Sunday with a well deserved victory over All-Ireland champions Tyrone, who were operating a man short for most of the match after the dismissal of captain Pádraig Hampsey for a yellow card on top of an earlier black.
A rainbow put in an appearance near the start of the match – a watery enough rainbow and short lived – but Dublin won’t be fussy these days about what form their signs of renewal may take.
It was a satisfying win over their successors, founded on an excellent, business-like first half, which at 0-11 to 0-2 left enough in the bank to withstand a late run. All their scores came from play, whereas Tyrone waited until the final quarter to record their first point from play.
Defensively, there was a tighter structure. Michael Fitzsimons put in a good shift, blocking smartly in the 13th minute after the ball had beaten John Small. David Byrne was given better protection and exhibited greater confidence than previously, whereas Robert McDaid in his first start was mobile and pushed forward to good effect.
They also stretched the game patiently, using the wings to attack while looking for openings.
So, with one bound, Dessie Farrell’s team had avoided setting a new county record for consecutive league defeats and given themselves the chance of a late dash to escape relegation.
The Dublin manager was also able to reintroduce some much-needed stardust to his flat-lining team with the return of All Stars James McCarthy – for a first appearance of the season – and Eoin Murchan, as well as Cormac Costello, both in dry dock since picking up injuries on opening night against Armagh.
All played a part in the county’s first win of note since last summer’s Leinster final.
Cathal McShane had given Tyrone the lead with a fourth-minute free but from then on, it was rainbow time, as the visitors put behind them the woes and inadequacies of their campaign to date to put in their most convincing half since last year’s All-Ireland semi-final against Mayo.
The problem was that their second half was even less productive – 0-2 against 0-3 – than last August but Tyrone weren’t possessed of the same energy as Mayo had been and failed to make a sufficient impact on the half-time deficit.
Dublin weren’t the only ones bringing back much missed players after injury as Ronan McNamee returned at full back for Tyrone for his first outing of the season.
This released captain Hampsey to take up a man-marking detail on Brian Fenton – which turned out to be a fateful decision, as the Dublin centrefielder had a fine match whereas his marker ended up in the sin bin for a foul on Tom Lahiff in the 16th minute and four minutes into the second half after tangling with Costello.
As early as Dublin’s first point, the fifth-minute equaliser by Ciarán Kilkenny, Fenton was directing traffic and moving the ball intelligently. A stream of points followed: Dean Rock, Costello and another from Kilkenny.
Hampsey's black card was one of the sanction's pricier examples. In his 10 minutes off the field, Dublin added five unanswered points. Fenton hit the first, Costello the second, tidying up when Jonny Cooper – gifted possession – seemed a bit at a loss what to do in front of goal.
Worse came for the Dublin veteran when referee Barry Cassidy, in a theatrical flourish to award Tyrone a free, ended up smacking Cooper to the ground in the 21st minute. It didn't stop the scoring. Niall Scully, Lahiff and Rock pushed the margin to 0-9 to 0-1 before the home side were restored to parity.
A glimmer of opportunity flickered for Tyrone at the end of the half. McShane mishit a free which toppled down into the square and Conn Kilpatrick pounced in the chaos to ram the ball into the net only for the goal to be disallowed for a Frank Burns challenge on goalkeeper Evan Comerford.
A nine-point interval deficit was not going to be easily overturned the way the champions were playing but they put in a decent effort on the resumption. Darragh Canavan, who was always lively, slipped through on advantage but Comerford saved his shot and McShane converted.
A run of three scores reduced the margin to five. Dublin appeared to be wobbling. Their various attacks were being frustrated. Fenton hit the post after half-time and Seán Bugler crashed a shot off the bar, which a bit lower would have cancelled the Tyrone points.
Farrell will have been particularly pleased with the crisis management. With the margin shrinking in the 57th minute, they calmed things down. McDaid’s raid produced an excellent inside chance for Rock but he contented himself with a fisted point, as did Bugler a couple of minutes later after Kilkenny and Costello set him up.
The lead was back to seven and in the absence of the black-carded Scully. Tyrone knew the game was up. Replacement Richie Donnelly fired two points from play but it felt like the champions were limiting damage. Niall Morgan, as usual, tried to inject urgency by pushing out of goal and trying to engineer a goal but a couple of late Hail Mary's were cut out by Dublin, one spectacularly by Brian Howard.
A lifeline for Dublin and questions for Tyrone.
TYRONE: 1 N Morgan; 2 M McKernan, 3 R McNamee, 7 P Harte; 4 F Burns; 6 J Munroe, 5 C Meyler; 8 C Kilpatrick, 9 P Hampsey (capt); 10 N Donnelly, 11 N Sludden (0-1), 12 K McGeary; 13 D McCurry (0-3, all frees), 14 C McShane (0-2, frees), 15 D Canavan.
Subs: 24 C McKenna for N Donnelly (34 mins), 26 M Conroy for McGeary, 22 R Donnelly (0-2) for Munroe (both h-t), 20 L Rafferty for Sludden (59), 25 P Donaghy for McShane (68).
DUBLIN: 1 E Comerford; 2 M Fitzsimons, 3 D Byrne, 22 C Murphy; 5 J Small, 6 J Cooper, 7 R McDaid (0-1); 8 B Fenton (0-1), 9 T Lahiff (0-1); 10 B Howard, 11 S Bugler (0-2), 12 N Scully (0-1); 15 D Rock (0-3), 13 C Costello (0-2), 14 C Kilkenny (0-2).
Subs: 21 E Murchan for Cooper (50 mins), 20 J McCarthy for Lahiff (53), 17 R Basquel for Costello (66), 18 L Gannon for McDaid (70), 24 L O'Dell for Bugler (73).
Referee: B Cassidy (Derry).