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
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