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Dublin v Tyrone: The good, the bad and the ugly

By Colm Keys

It has become one of the more storied rivalries in modern gaelic football. Think Tyrone and Dublin and the words ‘powder keg' instantly come to mind.

From the quality and entertainment of some of the games they have been involved in at a packed Croke Park to the raucous nature of their league battles in Omagh and Parnell Park, Tyrone and Dublin have never been less than full-blooded in their approach to each other.

And Saturday's 11th instalment between them in both league and championship on Mickey Harte's watch as manager is certain to be no different.

Even before Harte's arrival as Tyrone manager in 2003, there was always a simmering tension when these counties met.

Before the 1984 All-Ireland semi-final, Tyrone made the audacious decision to warm up at the Hill 16 end of Croke Park, beneath where the masses of Dublin supporters had gathered, causing obvious consternation.

When they met in the All-Ireland final 11 years later there was controversy over Charlie Redmond's dismissal — he stayed on the field briefly after Paddy Russell had red-carded him — and the decision to disallow a late Tyrone equaliser when Sean McLoughlin was adjudged to have picked the ball clean off the ground.

The fixture has thrown up just about everything a great rivalry should.


Dublin versus Tyrone has been the chosen fixture for two landmark events in Croke Park over the last five years — the first floodlit match to be played there in February 2007 and the official launch of the 125th anniversary celebrations two years later.

That 2009 fixture developed into a classic, the first under the experimental disciplinary rules that saw yellow-carded players replaced automatically up to a maximum of six substitutes.

It ebbed and flowed with Stephen O'Neill delivering a masterclass, capped by one of the most sublime points that Croke Park has seen in modern times.

It finished 1-18 to 1-16 to the Red Hands and underlined that,

played in the right spirit and with the right attitude, these teams could deliver a really high level of football.

Three years earlier, in the course of their two All-Ireland quarter-finals, it was much the same, with Owen Mulligan dodging past three helpless Dublin defenders to score arguably the goal of the decade and eat into a five-point interval deficit that had Tyrone in such a perilous position.

For the replay Harte reorganised the deck chairs and got his team selection right, with another Mulligan goal of high quality putting distance between the teams.


Dublin's complete collapse in the 2008 All-Ireland quarter-final when they lost by 12 points, having beaten Wexford by 23 points in the Leinster final just three weeks earlier, stands out.

They lost Alan Brogan early on and his absence derailed Dublin completely as they were hit for three early goals.

By half-time Tyrone were out of sight and by the end Paul Caffrey's seven-year involvement, four as manager outright, was over.

For Tyrone, the 17 wides they conspired to kick in the corresponding game 12 months ago, when they had Dublin by the throat until Eoghan O'Gara's goal released the grip, was as bad as it got for them.

The roles were reversed from two years earlier as Tyrone were provincial champions and Dublin, with the momentum of qualifier wins over Tipperary, Armagh and Louth behind them, came into the match on a high.


In the middle of the last decade the altercations between these fierce rivals came thick and fast, as they met on an annual basis in the league.

After Tyrone's All-Ireland success and Dublin's ‘annus horribilis' in 2003, there was an edge

to their early February meeting in Parnell Park as the home side sought to lay down a firm marker.

Dublin’s Senan Connell was stretchered off after only four minutes, a sign of what was to come and, by the end, 10 players had been yellow-carded as a fractious game threatened to boil over.

Tyrone made a mental note of Parnell Park and stored it away for the return visit 12 months later in Omagh.

Then, Dublin substitutes exchanged angry words with local stewards before eventually moving out of their seats in the stand because of the safety concerns of their management.

The ugliest encounter of all was the 2006 league fixture in Omagh.

Dublin returned with menace in their step, still smarting from their loss to Tyrone in the All-Ireland quarter-final after a replay.

By this stage the rivalry was at its fiercest and the bitter exchanges that followed were given the title, the ‘Battle of Omagh'.

Four players were sent off by referee Paddy Russell, who would later describe the atmosphere as “frightening” and recall how he considered abandoning the game at one point during the action.

So unnerved by the atmosphere was the Tipperary official that he would later lament the absence of a police presence and admit that the day had brought him close to retirement.

In a subsequent investigation, five more players were charged with various offences, but those charges didn't stick because of procedural irregularities that would force change in the way the disciplinary system is managed. Still, Dublin saw that Omagh encounter as a triumph, “a day when we crossed the line together like a Dublin squad hasn't done in years,” as their biblical ‘Blue Book' would record some years later.

There were further tensions 12 months later when the counties met to officially launch the switching on of the floodlights in Croke Park.

Dublin manager Caffrey had an angry exchange with Ryan McMenamin as he made his way off the pitch having picked up a red card near the end of a frantic league opener.

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