It can't get better than this – or can it? The sky is certainly the limit for Tyrone following this clinical demolition of Dublin’s cherished dream of ending their frustrating 13-year All Ireland title famine.
And, having buckled under the weight of an extraordinary day, it’s safe to assume that the Dubs are destined to continue to undergo a diet of scraps while the rich merely get richer.
If the Championship provided Kerry with a passport onto easy street in their embarrassingly one-sided deciders against Mayo (’06) and Cork (’07), then Tyrone had theirs stamped to such marked effect on Saturday that Croke Park appeared to have been evacuated long before referee Aidan Mangan sounded the final whistle.
In truth, this was the ultimate walkover. Tyrone’s power and authority were implicit from the sixth minute when forlorn Dublin skipper Alan Brogan limped out of the action to be replaced by his brother Bernard, leaving behind him a leaderless, clueless outfit, whose fall from grace was nothing short of catastrophic.
The Leinster champions’ meltdown, exacerbated by a catalogue of errors and an infusion of panic, subsequently morphed into an annihilation that has already ended Paul Caffrey’s four-year reign as manager and will undoubtedly trigger the exit of some of their hitherto marquee players.
In contrast, Tyrone played with creative purpose, thriving under the easy paternalism of their magnificent skipper Brian McGuigan and revelling in the smart tactical plan devised by manager Harte that negated the perceived Dublin threat up front, rendered their midfield toothless and saw their defence savagely shredded.
By the time Sean Cavanagh looped along the bye-line in the 25th minute before hammering in the Red Hands’ first goal to give them a scarcely credible 1-5 to 0-2 cushion, Dublin’s expressions were already full of oppression.
Conal Keaney’s fisted goal in the 32nd minute offered them a frisson of hope, but the expert finish which Joe McMahon applied to Tommy McGuigan’s artistic meandering three minutes later to give Tyrone a 2-5 to 1-3 interval advantage provided ample conviction that there was only going to be one outcome.
If the heavy rainfall which blighted the early stages of the match had been a climatic inconvenience, then the second-half whirlwind in which they found themselves enmeshed buried Dublin completely. Nothing, certainly not their morale, was left standing.
The wild proliferation of blue just about everywhere in the 70,877 crowd looked on in disbelief as Tyrone, taking their tone from Dooher and the brilliant Enda McGinley, Colm McCullagh and Ciaran Gourley, stockpiled points like hungry business moguls and thundered in their third goal when Davy Harte maximised the virtually unlimited freedom which he and his colleagues were accorded to beat the helpless Stephen Cluxton.
The Dublin starting attack managed just one point from play via Keaney over the course of the game, an utterly damning statistic, substitute Brogan (0-3) lobbing in the merest hint of comfort.
Even when the Dubs resorted to the occasional cheap shot and fleetingly spat invective, Tyrone offered a response of quiet dignity, almost stoically reflecting the ambience of the occasion. In essence, they bequeathed their opponents nothing more than a dismissive shrug and while this may have incensed the baying Dubs’ followers, it only served to underline the Ulster side’s total dominance.
He who laughs last, laughs longest – but all laughing has been put on hold in Tyrone for now. There is serious business to be attended to.
Tyrone scorers: S Cavanagh (1-2, 0-1 free), D Harte (1-1,), J McMahon (1-1), B Dooher (0-3), C McCullagh (0-3), T McGuigan (0-2) C Gormley, E McGinley (0-1 each).
Dublin scorers: C Keaney (1-1), B Brogan (0-3), T Quinn 0-2 (0-1 ‘45’, 0-1 free), M Vaughan 0-1 (free), B Cahill (0-1).
TYRONE: J Devine; R McMenamin, Justin McMahon, C Gourley; D Harte, C Gormley, P Jordan; C Holmes, E McGinley; B Dooher, B McGuigan, Joe McMahan; T McGuigan, S Cavanagh, C McCullagh. Subs: M Penrose for T McGuigan (56 mins), D McCaul for P Jordan (62), R Mell for Dooher (65), K Hughes for N Holmes (66), O Mulligan for B McGuigan '68.
DUBLIN: S Cluxton; D Henry, R McConnell, P Griffin; C Moran, B Cullen, B Cahill; C Whelan, S Ryan; D Connolly, J Sherlock, K Bonner; A Brogan, C Keaney, T Quinn.
Subs: A Brogan for B Brogan (6 mins), P Casey for Connolly (48), R McMenamin for Quinn (54), M Vaughan for Sherlock (54), E Fennell for McConnell (62).
REFEREE: A Mangan (Kerry)