Dublin v Tyrone: The free takers who could be key difference
Tyrone certainly do not expect to get a ‘free’ passage through to an All-Ireland semi-final meeting with Donegal when they confront Dublin on Saturday, but if they do, they will be well prepared for this eventuality.
The vital role which free-takers perform in championship matches was vividly underlined on Sunday when Mayo forward Cillian O’Connor, playing in his first major match at Croke Park, gave an exhibition of accuracy from the placed ball when he landed five of his six points from frees in his team’s stunning 1-13 to 2-6 win over Cork.
If Mayo placed all their faith in O’Connor, Tyrone’s free-taking load can, if necessary, be shared by several players.
With Stephen O’Neill’s return to full fitness and Martin Penrose coveting a place in the side again – or at least game time from the bench – the Red Hands could find themselves with five top-class free-takers.
Peter Harte, Sean Cavanagh, Owen Mulligan and Tommy McGuigan are proven finishers and it is unlikely that Tyrone will be as profligate as they were in the match between these sides last year when they shot 17 wides from play and frees.
While this was one reason for their defeat (1-15 to 0-13), the pressure exerted by Dublin defenders on forwards in the act of shooting also contributed to the inordinately high ratio of wides.
But while Tyrone will have their posse of free-takers on duty, Dublin will have two past masters to call upon in Bernard Brogan and Tómas Quinn.
The duo have piloted the Dubs through many tricky passages of games by their ability to maximise scoring opportunities from placed balls.
Even though Quinn is not quite regarded as an automatic first-choice player he can have a big say in the outcome of games even from the bench.
Tyrone boss Mickey Harte has already spelled out to his side the importance of not fouling close to goal.
He said: “Obviously the Brogan brothers Bernard and Alan represent a huge scoring threat but it should not be forgotten that Dublin have other dangerous forwards as well. We need to be very alert.
“We simply cannot afford to present them with scoring chances or they will punish us.”