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Comment: Tyrone and Dublin have history of a scrap and ladies' game is on the rise

By Declan Bogue

Once upon a time in the tea room at Breffni Park prior to an Ulster Championship match, another journalist and myself were mulling over the mysteries of Tyrone GAA with former Armagh joint-manager Brian Canavan.

The topic turned to the 1995 All-Ireland final and the way Charlie Redmond might look at you after being red-carded, convinced he had been the victim of a mere scolding.

"That was a terrible thing," said Canavan. An Armagh man, expressing his sympathy for a mishap involving Tyrone. Truly, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Around about that time in 1995, a cliché entered the sporting mindset, that the GAA in some way 'needed' a Dublin All-Ireland win. You heard it again after they went 16 years between the 1995 and 2011 Sam Maguire triumphs. You don't hear it so much now.

As Mickey Harte puts the final touches to his team for next weekend's All-Ireland semi-final, he will be thinking of the uncompromising history between these two.

Tyrone and Dublin first met in Championship football in the 1984 All-Ireland semi-final. The influx of Tyrone supporters into the capital was not a smooth operation. The front page of the following day's Irish Independent talked of violence on Hill 16, erupting after Tyrone decided they would limber up in front of the Hill.

"Several officers received superficial injuries after being showered with broken bottles, coins, stones and other missiles. Some of the crowd behaved like savages," Inspector Denis Hurley of Fitzgibbon Street claimed last night. "They were absolutely stoned with beer and cider."

There were league meetings since, but nothing brings out the biff like a game not played under threat of official GAA sanction.

If you have a spare 10 minutes you can gouge out of your undoubtedly frantic schedule, it is well worth spending them on YouTube watching the highlights of the Canada Cup tie, a one-off game in 1990 between a be-sneakered Dublin and Tyrone played on hard ground, the stands teaming with stage-Irish caricatures.

There's something about counties when they get to play exhibition games on another continent. Galway and Dublin only thought they flaked into each other during the Super Elevens hurling exhibition in Boston.

Twenty-five years previously and 550 miles away, Tyrone and Dublin went to war.

Blaine Schmidt, a Gridiron guard with the Toronto Argonauts in the Canadian Football League, was interviewed at half-time for Canadian television. Impressed as he was with the excitement on display, he added: "It's dangerous. I seen a few bumps and bruises on these guys. What's good about our football is we get to wear equipment at least. These guys are just throwing their bodies around like they're expendable."

And then the footage cut to Damian O'Hagan of Coalisland putting in a late challenge on Tommy Carr, before Carr puts the head into him. Marvellous stuff. Soon after, Mick Deegan gives an 18-year-old Peter Canavan a punch on the Adam's Apple.

A few of the characters were still about in 1995 when they met for only the second time in Championship football in that final. Redmond was shown red by referee Paddy Russell but hung about for another while, occupying a Tyrone defender, preventing a tactical switch.

Then there was the infamous disallowed point at the end, Canavan clawing the ball up to Seanie McLaughlin to split the posts only for Russell to adjudge it had been touched on the ground.

Such injustices burned in the stomach of Canavan for years and years and he readily admits to that fuelling his journey towards two eventual All-Irelands.

They also got the better of Dublin after a replay in 2005 on the way to the second triumph, those two tests going down in history for the skills of Owen Mulligan.

Sickened by losing that one, Dublin came up and set the terms for the 'Battle of Omagh' in 2006. Alan Brogan has written how a new Dublin was born that day.

Their big statement came in the 2010 quarter-final, when their frantic tackling brought a win over Dublin. The following year Dublin, and Diarmuid Connolly in particular, finished the Golden Generation of Tyrone footballers in the 2011 quarter-final, prompting a flood of retirements, before Kerry picked off the bones the following year in Killarney.

Tyrone have always played best against Dublin when there is skin in the game. Resentments that have to be acted out. Two tribes of people with such a strong sense of self will always be a combustible mix.

The question we will ponder over the next week and a half is, do Tyrone have the type of character that responds to it?

Ladies' game on the rise as Mackin hits goal of year contender

During the ongoing coverage of the Women's Rugby World Cup on RTÉ, a clear picture has emerged. The studio analysts - Rosie Foley, Lynne Cantwell and Fiona Steed - are saying it how it is.

Ireland may have beaten Australia, but there was a complete lack of self-defeating 'sisters are doin' it for themselves' nonsense commentary.

They were having a serious conversation about their sport, giving it respect. There was no self-congratulation that the sport was getting a slice of the prime-time action and there was absolutely no evidence whatsoever of the wider issues around female sport in general, least of all those pointless comparisons with male counterparts.

This may be part of a wider trend. Over the summer, camogie and ladies' football analysts have become a regular feature on The Sunday Game couch. Some have even been brought in to comment about the men's games.

The anecdotes are heartening. Last year, Tyrone's women footballers travelled down by bus to train in Garvaghey but received no post-training meal. This year, that has been sorted.

And the closing stages of the All-Ireland Ladies' Football Championships are being hosted in the glamorous venues.

Prior to this, games were played in wide open spaces of remote grounds. While TG4 have always done an incredible job of televising these games, it was hard to conjure up a sense of atmosphere at the venues.

Last weekend, they were able to hook up all the best vantage points of Nowlan Park in Kilkenny. They were there to capture Armagh's game against Kerry but in particular a quite sensational goal by Aimee Mackin.

She took delivery of a long foot-pass on the edge of the square, and pinged it to the far top corner of the net. It stands as the best goal during any game of Gaelic football this year, enhanced by the surroundings. Check it out for yourself with a quick Twitter search.

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