Dubs too good for sorry Tyrone
Dublin 2-17 Tyrone 0-11
Tyrone didn't want to go out like this, dying without their boots on for the second year in succession in Croke Park.
But that they most assuredly did, limping out in meek surrender to a Dublin team that were far from tested as they made their way to their third All-Ireland final in a row to face Mayo for the second successive year.
Once Con O'Callaghan fastened onto a loose pass by Niall Sludden to career down the central channel on five minutes, sending Ronan McNamee to the turf with a delightful exaggerated swivel of the hips and sending a bullet past Niall Morgan, the outcome seemed inevitable.
All the characteristics of the game were summed up in that moment. A Tyrone player having a great season only for his ball skills to let him down, a Dublin player alert to the possibilities around him, the evasion to not even have to draw a tackle and the ability to execute ruthlessly.
Dublin blew them away. The game "was played on their terms, not ours," admitted Tyrone manager Mickey Harte afterwards.
But that only tells half the story. The suspicion remains that Tyrone were not set up to win this game in the same way they were not set up to beat Mayo last year. Once Dublin had the slenderest of leads, they could afford to hold the ball around the middle of the field, Ciaran Kilkenny deciding on the pace of attacks and where to make the incision.
It's a lot harder chasing a ball than playing with it, and the 67% possession that Dublin enjoyed in the opening half seemed to energise them.
Operating a zonal defence is fine and good, but it can lead to an abdication of responsibility. Hence the ease with which Paddy Andrews hit two points in as many minutes to follow the goal. O'Callaghan also added a brace of points, and things might have been much worse only for a late saving tackle by Kieran McGeary on Paul Mannion when he was poised to pull the trigger.
There were other factors. Dublin were forcing turnovers all over the park. Mannion, for example, could never be accused of being an enforcer, but produced two of them in the opening half, one memorably against his direct opponent Cathal McCarron.
The players who are tasked with leading Tyrone's transition from defence to attack; Peter Harte, Matthew Donnelly, Niall Sludden and Tiernan McCann, were frustrated figures throughout, and prone to uncharacteristic tired play in delivering passes to the inside line.
Harte in particular was dogged throughout by his marker John Small. A less honest player might have been tempted to try and wrestle his marker into a second yellow card with him riding the donkey close to the tail from his booking in the 23rd minute.
The Errigal Ciaran man was too honest for that. Perhaps that needs to change in order for Tyrone to go to the next level. They conceded only seven frees here and no players earned a card of any description.
For the second half, Tyrone went more offensive. They pressed up properly on Stephen Cluxton's kickouts and moved three men into the full-forward line.
Cluxton had hit 100% of his kickouts, both long and short, to his own players, while James McCarthy spoiled any Niall Morgan kickout that went in the direction of Sean Cavanagh.
That changed in the second half, and there were some signs that Dublin could be vulnerable when Mark Bradley and Colm Cavanagh won breaks and scraps for the ball.
However, a series of wides from Declan McClure, Sean Cavanagh and substitute Darren McCurry sapped their spirit. The fight was gone out of them by the time Kevin McManamon danced through half-time substitute Rory Brennan's two challenges to place the ball for goal but it bounced off the crossbar.
Three minutes later, a flowing movement with Tyrone light on numbers at the back ended with Jack McCaffrey blazing wide when he had all of Morgan's goal to aim for.
There was another goal there for Dublin, and it arrived two minutes from the end. Eric Lowndes and Darren Daly combined fluidly to flick the ball across the face of goal to their fellow substitute Eoghan O'Gara who palmed it in.
Tyrone might have been able to apply some lipstick onto a pig of a performance when a high ball in towards Colm Cavanagh was met with an off the ball jostle by Philly McMahon. Penalty, said David Coldrick. But Peter Harte's effort was way too kind for Cluxton, hit at a nice height and without ferocity.
Dublin seem to be a team operating on another level. Their movement is phenomenal, and when Sean Cavanagh, an out and out animal in the gym, talks of being "blown away" by the opposition, you have to admire whatever they are doing in the secretive Dublin camp.
But they are playing Mayo in the final. Anything is liable to happen.
So that's that for the year with Ulster sides. It appears the gap is growing. Plenty to ponder over the winter.
Tyrone: N Morgan; A McCrory, R McNamee, C McCarron; T McCann 0-1, P Hampsey, P Harte 0-4, 3f; C Cavanagh 0-2, C McCann; D Mulgrew, N Sludden 0-2, K McGeary; M Bradley, S Cavanagh 0-1f, M Donnelly
Subs: D McClure 0-1 for C McCann (30), R Brennan for McGeary (H-Time), D McCurry for Mulgrew (42), R O'Neill for Bradley (50), C Meyler for S Cavanagh (55), P McNulty for McNamee (60)
Dublin: S Cluxton; P McMahon, C O'Sullivan, M Fitzsimons; J Cooper, J Small, J McCaffrey 0-1; B Fenton 0-1, J McCarthy; C Kilkenny 0-1, C O'Callaghan 1-2, N Scully; P Mannion 0-1, P Andrews 0-2, D Rock 0-5, 4f
Subs: P Flynn 0-3 for Scully (45), K McManamon for Andrews (46), D Daly for Small (52), E O'Gara 1-1 for Rock (63), E Lowndes for Mannion (66), D Connolly for O'Callaghan (70)
Referee: David Coldrick (Meath)