Have Ty­rone enough troops to mark Dublin’s dan­ger men?

All-Ire­land plans are be­ing laid in the calm be­fore the storm, writes Colm O’Rourke

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - GAELIC GAMES -

WHEN the board went up near the end of last Sun­day’s All-Ire­land hurl­ing fi­nal an­nounc­ing eight min­utes of in­jury time, I could not help think­ing of the pre­vi­ous week’s foot­ball semi-fi­nal be­tween Mon­aghan and Ty­rone when there were only three min­utes played. Of course there were more stop­pages in the hurl­ing game, but the dis­crep­ancy should not have been so great.

Any­way, Lim­er­ick held on and there was quite an amaz­ing out­pour­ing of joy. The peo­ple of the Treaty County must have thought they were cursed af­ter so many de­feats so the raw emo­tion burst through. It was nice to see it at close quar­ters. Lim­er­ick should be an in­spi­ra­tion to all — es­pe­cially Mayo.

Suc­cess is never easy. There is no fair­ness in sport and there is no sub­sti­tute for pas­sion, hon­esty, hard work and pig-headed per­sis­tence. All th­ese virtues some­times bring vic­tory and great­ness, but even with th­ese virtues there are no guar­an­tees. With­out them there are only ex­cuses.

It was clear from early in this bril­liant sum­mer of hurl­ing that Lim­er­ick were not trad­ing in ex­cuses. Well done to all and I’m not over­look­ing Gal­way — they are as much a credit to their county this year as last.

Ty­rone are prob­a­bly away this week­end plot­ting a sim­i­lar happy end­ing. Vis­its of Sam Maguire have been reg­u­lar to Ty­rone and they have pro­duced teams that com­pare to any cham­pi­ons in Croke Park. Now a new bunch try to be­come he­roes to a younger au­di­ence who may not be old enough to have ap­pre­ci­ated Cana­van, O’Neill, McGuigan, Dooher, Jor­dan, Mul­li­gan and many more. They won All-Ire­lands against great Kerry teams be­cause they were bet­ter. The present group are try­ing to top­ple an even more bril­liant Dublin side.

By the end of this week­end, both man­age­ment teams will have de­cided on a few things. One is the start­ing 15. The teams may not be an­nounced un­til Fri­day night and then even the Pope would not be­lieve them. There will be changes be­fore the ball is thrown in. The games that Mickey Harte and Jim Gavin will play may con­tinue right up to the start and you could not be­lieve a word out of ei­ther of their mouths.

There re­ally is a need for some dead­line for teams to be an­nounced and af­ter that any changes should count as a sub­sti­tu­tion. The re­quire­ment for that time pe­riod should not be too oner­ous on man­agers, but nam­ing teams at least an hour be­fore the start is hardly ask­ing too much. It has be­come com­pletely laugh­able now that nearly all man­agers won’t even di­vulge their team in the pre-match in­ter­view.

That, of course, does not ap­ply to Mickey Harte, who does not talk to the na­tional broad­caster . . . there is no point in hav­ing a grudge if it does not last for at least ten years. The play­ers, nat­u­rally, fol­low their leader and we are not privy to their thoughts on the fi­nal.

Truth is, none of th­ese play­ers have any­thing in­ter­est­ing to say at this point. Yet as soon as many of the Ty­rone play­ers fin­ish their ca­reers, they are only too happy to air their views on life in­side the bub­ble. And some­times it is not too com­pli­men­tary. They also have plenty of in­ter­est­ing views on foot­ball and life; pity that, as play­ers, they seem too lack­ing in self-con­fi­dence to put them­selves for­ward as well-rounded per­son­al­i­ties.

Ty­rone started with a cou­ple of play­ers against Mon­aghan who had made a big im­pact when in­tro­duced as subs against Done­gal and they were not as strong at the end of the semi-fi­nal as a re­sult. You can’t have it both ways, un­less of course you are Dublin — and even for them there will come a day when the fifth cavalry come over the hill and the In­di­ans wipe them out. If Dublin were be­hind in a game, the im­pact of their subs could be en­tirely dif­fer­ent. It is rel­a­tively easy to come into a team in the lead. The for­wards have more room and play­ers like Cor­mac Costello and Kevin McMana­mon make hay in that en­vi­ron­ment. Ty­rone want a sit­u­a­tion where Dublin are throw­ing on men to try and save the day and where there is more room in a phone box than the whole Dublin for­ward line have be­tween them.

Then there are the mark­ing ar­range­ments to sort out this week­end. Ty­rone have changed a bit. They have a much more de­lib­er­ate man-mark­ing pol­icy than they had at the start of the cham­pi­onship. They will tar­get Ciarán Kilkenny in par­tic­u­lar. Kilkenny won’t lose any sleep over that. It hap­pens to him in ev­ery game. It is a com­pli­ment. Mayo did it suc­cess­fully with Lee Kee­gan and Diar­muid Con­nolly got more of the same. It goes with the ter­ri­tory.

It is hard to see ei­ther Tier­nan McCann or Peter Harte be­ing given that role of self-sac­ri­fice. Ty­rone would lose a lot from them go­ing for­ward and it is a par­tic­u­lar dis­ci­pline which may not just suit them. It looks like Pádraig Hampsey will draw the short straw.

The same ap­plies to Con O’Cal­laghan and Paul Man­nion so Ty­rone must be con­cerned that there won’t be enough good men to go round. And that is be­fore the subs ap­pear or be­fore I men­tion Brian Howard, who must be a di­rect rel­a­tive of the great Rus­sian dancer Ru­dolf Nureyev. He glides both into and out of trou­ble.

If any­one thinks that Ty­rone will do all the analysing then they would be mak­ing a se­ri­ous mis­take. Jim Gavin does not spend his time watch­ing car­toons and Dublin will have ev­ery­thing planned in terms of mark­ing ar­range­ments. Mat­tie Don­nelly and Niall Slud­den will get spe­cial at­ten­tion, while Harte and McCann will be a bit like Cow­boy Joe — there will al­ways be some­one wait­ing to pick them up at the pass.

Both sides will have all the data on fit­ness and dis­tance cov­ered and the num­ber of high-in­ten­sity runs. All this com­ing from track­ing de­vices which will be an­a­lysed in real time dur­ing the games. The trick is to sort out the im­por­tant bits of in­for­ma­tion, but again the pat­terns will have been there be­fore, over the years that th­ese play­ers have spent on their pan­els. In say­ing that, there is still no sub­sti­tute for the eyes that God gave us all. More im­por­tantly, good man­agers have an even bet­ter nose to smell the bull­shit that some of th­ese mod­ern coach­ing bluffers try to ped­dle.

Science has a huge role to play and is used ex­ten­sively by Ty­rone and Dublin, but a lap­top does not tell who is do­ing the heavy lift­ing for a team. That is the role for Gavin and Harte and at least part of the rea­son they will be in Croke Park next Sun­day. They can make up their mind by watch­ing the game de­velop.

This will be a long week for play­ers. It is for ly­ing around, rest­ing and avoid­ing rub­bish talk while keep­ing to as much rou­tine as pos­si­ble. Maybe time for the pre-match hair­cut. Tick­ets will be dis­trib­uted early. I al­ways gave mine to a brother and he looked af­ter the fam­ily. No real sup­porter would ever ask a player for a ticket. Any­way, it may not be that hard to get one as this fi­nal is hardly of the ‘can’t wait’ va­ri­ety.

Then there’s the ref­eree and the weather. Both may be un­pre­dictable, but each team will try to un­der­stand what the ref­eree is li­able to be finicky about and play to that tune. As for the weather, the Dubs would like a nice dry day where they will feel that their nat­u­ral ad­van­tages in foot­ball abil­ity will be clear. Wind and rain negates that, so if there is a mon­soon it won’t up­set Ty­rone in the least. This week is the calm be­fore the storm.

Then there’s the ref­eree and the weather. Both may be un­pre­dictable

It looks like Pádraig Hampsey may be given the job of mark­ing Ciarán Kilkenny in next Sun­day’s All-Ire­land fi­nal

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