Belfast Telegraph

Peter Canavan: These are the five steps Tyrone can follow to beat Dublin in All Ireland final

Head to head: Tyrone boss Mickey Harte (left) and Dublin manager Jim Gavin
Head to head: Tyrone boss Mickey Harte (left) and Dublin manager Jim Gavin

By Peter Canavan

It's a massive ask but Tyrone go into Sunday's showdown with more than a puncher's chance. At the risk of stating the obvious, Tyrone are up against it in Croke Park on Sunday.

Dublin's long list of achievements and the bookmakers' odds are there for all to see. It will take something special for the Dubs to be toppled.

Finding a way to beat this team has flummoxed the best sides since 2014, while Tyrone had a chastening experience at the hands of Jim Gavin's men at the All-Ireland semi-final stage last year.

With that in mind, my heart says Tyrone of course but my head says Dublin.

Still, any team can be beaten on a given day and while they'll need everything to go their way, here are the areas I feel Tyrone will have to target if they are to pull off an upset.

1. Make a good start

Tyrone got off to the worst possible start last year and it killed any chance they had. Con O'Callaghan's goal left Tyrone in a position where they had to chase the game and that just didn't suit them.

In truth, that game was over after 20 minutes.

This time around, Tyrone will have to set the terms of engagement and that means being on the front foot rather than letting Dublin choose how and when they attack as was the case last year.

We know at this stage that if any team invites Dublin on to them then they will find ways to pick them apart. I read recently that just seven counties who have been behind at half-time in All-Ireland finals in the last 30 years have gone on to win.

Tyrone just can't afford to be in that situation.

2. Dictate the pace

Should Tyrone sit back and flood their own defensive area with bodies, that just hands the initiative to Dublin. They can look to the second half of the game in Omagh for an example of how good Dublin are when they are let play the game as they please.

For a 15-minute spell from the 43rd to 58th minutes, the numbers showed that Tyrone had their hands on the ball for less than two minutes. In that period Dublin outscored them by 0-3 to no score and stretched their lead to six points.

That period was a prime example of Dublin's excellent game management. Simply put, Tyrone have to ruffle feathers and they can do that legally. A few seconds into the game in Omagh, Cian O'Sullivan won possession from the throw-in and he was hit by Pádraig Hampsey.

O'Sullivan needed treatment after that but it was a perfectly fair and legal challenge. Tyrone need to be at that level of intensity all the time.

They matched Dublin in almost every facet of play in that game in Healy Park but only put in 44 tackles compared to Dublin's 56. They'll need to turn those numbers on their head.

3. Be clinical up front

Under Jim Gavin, Dublin have become a model of efficiency. Their conversion rate in the 'Super 8s' part of the championship came in at 64 per cent, higher than any team that reached the All-Ireland quarter-final stage.

Tyrone struggled against the better teams and saw their average fall against the likes of Monaghan, Dublin and Donegal.

On Sunday, they can't afford to let Dublin off the hook when chances arise.

They can apply more pressure on the Dublin restarts too. When they were chasing the game in Omagh, they pushed up and asked more questions.

That day Tyrone won four of Stephen Cluxton's last five kick-outs. They'll need to go after that again. Against Monaghan in the All-Ireland semi-final, they picked off just two of their Ulster rivals' 24 restarts. A repeat of that will see Tyrone in for a long day.

4. Get match-ups right

I expect the teams to adopt a broadly similar style with one sweeper back. O'Sullivan, presuming he's fit, will fill that role for Dublin, while Tyrone will likely have Colm Cavanagh in that role. The rest of the players will go man to man and will have to win their own battles.

How Tyrone fare in the match-ups with Ciarán Kilkenny and Brian Fenton will have a big say in the outcome.

I have seen suggestions that Hampsey could track Kilkenny but Conor Meyler, if fit, might get the nod for that job while Hampsey could be detailed to pick up Fenton.

Dublin have class all over the field but stifle those two and Tyrone will have a big chance.

5. Bench warfare

Mayo showed time and again they were good enough to go toe-to-toe with Dublin from the first whistle but they found out to their cost that they couldn't match what the Dubs could introduce from their bench.

There's no Diarmuid Connolly this time around but they could still bring in two former Footballers of the Year in Michael Darragh MacAuley and Bernard Brogan as well as men with a host of All-Stars and game-changers like Paul Flynn, Kevin McManamon and Cormac Costello.

Tyrone's bench has been potent this year too, not least when they made that late surge against the Dubs in Omagh and away to Donegal in Ballybofey when progress to the last four was on the line.

A lot will depend on the starting team Mickey Harte goes with but if the likes of Lee Brennan, Kieran McGeary, Conal McCann and Harry Loughran are going to be introduced, they'll have to hit the ground running.

Belfast Telegraph

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.


From Belfast Telegraph