Dubs rise to the challenge on their odyssey to Omagh
Tyrone’s counterattack lacks impact as champions' well-oiled machine pays dividends
Tyrone’s Colm Cavanagh and Cathal McShane tackle Con O’Callaghan of Dublin at Healy Park, Omagh on Saturday. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
There’s a plausible rule of thumb with Jim Gavin that the more strongly he feels about something, the blander the reaction – if there is one at all, and not one of his deflections.
With the football world looking on in the hope that having to travel 110 miles north to take on one of the likelier contenders for the All-Ireland might force the champions to reveal some frailty, Dublin’s manager was asked whether the challenge of having to win away in Omagh had been a special motivation.
In response he channelled Ron Manager.
“Just excitement – a great opportunity, really, to come up to Omagh on a summer’s evening, knowing that Healy Stadium was going to be full, and once again we got a great welcome from the Tyrone officials. We were passing Dublin supporters on the way up – in the car, enjoying themselves – and it’s great for the local economies as well. It was just a great experience and one that the guys will treasure when they look back on the season.”
The nuts and bolts of a match that his team won – clearly but not without anxiety – were succinctly summed up.
“Two games down in the All-Ireland round-robin series and we’ve four points on the board and that’s satisfying.
“We drove hard at Tyrone, got some great scores and they put in some great defending. Defensively we looked strong as well. We knew going into the game that they had put up some big, big scores over the last five games and it’s a credit to the system that Mickey has – they’re a very potent attacking unit and to limit them to what we did today is a reflection of some really hard work by the collective on the pitch.”
Tyrone’s counter-attacking template didn’t have the same impact against Dublin’s well-oiled machine, and manager Mickey Harte was torn between recognition of his team’s battling qualities and disappointment at falling short.
“I think it’s great credit to our boys that they dug in, they fought back and they got to within a point, and I suppose even a free at the end there – if we had scored that free – would have made it even a more tight battle to the end.
“Obviously we’re not happy with the outcome or the result, and we’re not looking about moral victories, ‘oh you pushed them close or you ran them close’. It wasn’t about that. We intended to win this game. We felt we were capable of winning the game, and we didn’t win it.
“The only saving grace is it doesn’t knock us out of the championship altogether. We have another chance and it’s not often you would lose a game at this time of the year, an All-Ireland quarter-final, and still have another chance.
“If we hadn’t conceded that goal, it would have been interesting to see how the game would have panned out, but sure that’s all conjecture now.
“The bottom line is, on the day they were, they are, the great champions, and they beat us, and they’re away home safely in the semi-final at this stage, so good luck to them.”