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Dublin v Tyrone: Gavin's game plan good enough to earn a spot in final


Three keys: Mattie Donnelly (left) with Peter Harte. Photo: James Crombie/INPHO
Three keys: Mattie Donnelly (left) with Peter Harte. Photo: James Crombie/INPHO

Comment: Rory Gallagher

Whose terms will tomorrow's All-Ireland semi-final be played on? That depends on how Dublin boss Jim Gavin deals with that trio responsible for perhaps the most critical element of Tyrone's game - transition. The roles of Peter Harte, Mattie Donnelly and Niall Sludden are at the heart of their current progress.

One of the biggest decisions has been to make Mark Bradley a permanent starter. Mickey Harte has clearly decided that neither Ronan O'Neill or Darren McCurry are good enough to play with their back to goal at this level. Bradley shows for the ball better.

All these changes have allowed Mickey to develop that axis between Bradley and the rest. Tyrone have totally settled this year on Peter Harte and Sludden as forwards. It's a brave move to give Donnelly the same portfolio, considering he is a double All Star midfielder.

The sequence of changes have added more scoring power to Tyrone when, ironically, they are playing without recognised 'back to goal' attackers.

That gives Dublin a problem. How do you mark these players because they go so deep? It presents a dilemma for teams who play orthodox full-backs. What use are they if they have no one to mark inside? Dublin don't have that issue however because Mick Fitzsimons can pick up Bradley and Jonny Cooper and Philly McMahon are comfortable sweeping.

I feel Dublin will sit numbers back and won't get sucked in too deep. They won't engage this trio until they reach a certain point and then any combination from John Small, Eric Lowndes, Cooper, McMahon, even Jack McCaffrey, will pick them up.

The 2014 All-Ireland semi-final against Donegal has been referenced often this week and with good reason. But Dublin are a much better coached team in the three years since.

Because Dublin are so much better coached now they have a much better chance of unpicking the same kind of concentrated defence they faced in 2014. They tried to win the game with long range scores that day but that will only work for so long.

If Dublin have to play a possession game they'll play it. Against Donegal in last year's All-Ireland quarter-final, a game they dominated, they had still only 15 points scored before Paul Mannion went through for that goal. For the semi-final against Kerry they scored 22 points. Different game.

Tyrone want you to go down the middle. You can make a decision to go the wings where it is harder to score but you can't force ball into the full-forward line.

Dublin will give something extra for Tyrone to think about too by playing a conventional three inside forwards, forcing Tyrone to use three man markers. Generally, they only have to play with two markers and two sweepers, Hampsey and Colm Cavanagh, in front of their markers.

Cavanagh and O'Sullivan, for me, have the best understanding of the sweeping role because they know when to push the line out.

Tyrone have changed their approach to opposition kick-outs too. Now, like all the top teams, they press high.

Dublin will sit back, hold their shape and wait for the 'transition trio' to come to them. And that will be on their terms for a 0-16 to 0-13 win.

Belfast Telegraph


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