Errors cost Tyrone as Dubs prove just too strong again
Dublin 1-14 Tyrone 0-14
The unbeaten Dublin run stretched to 25 Championship matches in Healy Park as they became the first side to ever qualify for the All-Ireland semi-final through the Super8's system, but while Tyrone hardly bloodied their nose, there was a time when the Dubs were seeing stars.
James McCarthy's goal after 40 minutes for Dublin - fashioned by raw pace and direct running towards the goal, playing a give and go with Brian Fenton before unleashing a shot that Tyrone keeper Niall Morgan could only parry and which McCarthy knocked home - threatened to do to teams what Dublin goals do.
Like that other great team of all-time contenders, the Kilkenny hurlers of a decade ago, a goal for Dublin seems worth far more.
But Tyrone knuckled down and clawed their way back into the light. They had to do it while shooting nine wides to Dublin's four, but there was a sense that if they could throw enough stuff at the wall, most of it was bound to stick.
By that stage, Ronan McNamee was off with a leg injury on the stroke of half time. The defence that had already lost Cathal McCarron to a leg injury last week drafted in Rory Brennan and he rose to the occasion.
Kieran McGeary came off the bench and imposed his will on the game, taking the ball past the first bank of defenders and contributing two brilliant points from play. Fellow substitutes Harry Loughran and Mark Bradley made scoring contributions.
As the game crept to a close, they reeled off three points and got a gift of a free in front of the makeshift Hill 16 set up by the visiting Dublin supporters on the Gortin Road end. Ronan O'Neill had a chance to make it a one-point game but forced his kick wide of the far post.
They had broken the previous four Dublin kickouts, but with that wide, they were punctured. To beat Dublin, you need to make fewer than half a dozen unforced errors. Tyrone had given all they had, but committed far more little mistakes.
From then on, Dublin killed the game. You only get one clean shot at the Kings.
"I think it's great credit to our boys that they dug in, they fought back and they got to within a point, and I suppose even a free at the end there, if we had scored that free, would have made it even a more tight battle to the end," acknowledged Mickey Harte afterwards.
"Obviously we're not happy with the outcome nor the result, and we're not looking about moral victories, 'oh you pushed them close or you ran them close'. It wasn't about that. We intended to win this game. We felt we were capable of winning the game, and we didn't win it.
"So when that happens, you're hugely disappointed."
A Tyrone win here wouldn't have blown the All-Ireland race open, but it would have required a radical rethink on the ability of both teams.
Dublin will be comforted that their skills once again saw them through in a tight game. Once they got their goal, and for periods of the first half, they indulged in playing the ball around the defence and killing the momentum of the game.
Towards the last couple of minutes, Tyrone hunted like mad to get the ball back, and it appeared to take Dublin by surprise.
However, Dublin hit just four wides in the afternoon. Con O'Callaghan and Paul Mannion may have been shut out but they still contributed, not least Mannion's fantastically-timed tackle on Cathal McShane when he was sent through on goal with a ball over the top.
Tyrone's defence was superb, but it only takes one runner not tagged for the Dubs to kill you off. They played well in spurts, but it wasn't a vintage performance. Perhaps that was down to the foreign surroundings but efficiency is their greatest quality right now.
"It was a great experience, we enjoyed it and the guys were really looking forward to it all week and they weren't let down by the crowd," said manager Jim Gavin afterwards.
"We drove hard at Tyrone and got some great scores and defensively we looked strong as well.
"We knew, going into the game, they had put up big scores in the last five games and it's a credit to the system Mickey has. They are a very potent attacking unit and what we did today was a reflection of some really hard work we did on the pitch."
They went in two points ahead at the break, perhaps fortunate that a Dean Rock free that fell wide, was ordered to be retaken after a player was adjudged by referee David Coldrick to have encroached on his space, Rock nailing the second attempt.
Indeed, Coldrick made a few odd decisions. He blew for a hop-ball when Kieran McGeary was clearly fouled going through late on, and Ronan O'Neill's wasn't afforded the same courtesy when Kevin McManamon ambled far too close to him and he spurned his free.
Try as they might, Tyrone only held the lead for two brief minutes in the first half.
The goal was everything that Dublin do. Patience on the ball waiting to get a runner in position, everyone being alive to the play and ruthless finishing.
By contrast, Tyrone kept making silly mistakes, a kickout going astray here and there, some real energy-sapping wides, most especially from Padraig Hampsey and Declan McClure when they had the momentum.
"So it was a difficult day, and it's a pity, for the effort that the players put in, that they didn't get something more out of the game," concluded Harte.
"But that's life, and hopefully we can learn from it."
They need to do that, but they have a reprieve next weekend, before they face Donegal needing a point.