Tyrone 0-8 Dublin 0-13
It’s official now: Tyrone are in a battle to save their Division One status.
With Mayo coming to town on Saturday night followed by an ominous trip to Killarney, they could be relying on other sides to do a few favours to preserve top flight status, given how Dublin immediately appear to have magicked up some form.
Dublin won’t believe they are there yet; they have a long way to go to reach the safe shores.
But there was a lot in how they performed in Omagh that will convince them they can go a long way into the summer and that their early season losses can be a galvanising element, much in the same way Tyrone used the concession of seven goals against Kerry last year.
You suspect that the biggest loser in all of the refusal to grant interviews after the game – the Gaelic Player’s Association imposing the diktat on their players and extending in most cases to managers – was Dessie Farrell.
It’s only natural after listening to the early-season knee-jerk stuff that he might have wanted to let himself go a little. In the end, he limited his utterances to Dubs TV and politely informed a bystanding journalist that they were not to use any of his quotes as the former CEO of the GPA was standing in solidarity with the playing body.
At the other end of the corridor, there was no budging. Tyrone were delighted to get out of Dodge without having to rake through the coals of a dreadful performance.
Dublin had already opened up a decent 0-4 to 0-1 lead when Padraig Hampsey was given a black card for a third-man tackle on Tom Lahiff on 15 minutes.
By the time he got back on, Dublin were 0-9 to 0-1 up. The Dublin players were streaming forward, Brian Fenton rediscovered some of his regality and their old weaving patterns were working. Crucially, the likes of Dean Rock and Ciaran Kilkenny were imposing themselves on their markers, Michael McKernan and Peter Harte, winning the duels.
At the start of the second half, Tyrone had Richie Donnelly, Michael Conroy and Conor McKenna on the pitch in an effort to shake some life into things.
But their plans went astray entirely when Hampsey went to retrieve a ball that went into the stand. He nudged Cormac Costello, who went down on the concrete surface. Referee Barry Cassidy decided a yellow card was the order of the day and so Hampsey was awarded his second red card of the season.
How abject Tyrone were can be wrapped up in a few variables. They didn’t score from play until the 51st minute, when Niall Sludden made a nice sniping run that included a solo dummy before slicing over.
None of the starting team aside from Sludden scored from play. Indeed, their only other scores from play happened to be two thumping efforts from Richie Donnelly.
In response, Farrell was able to introduce James McCarthy. When they needed to, they could fashion a score here and there.
Tyrone notched the first four points of a second half and as it progressed, a lot of off the ball stuff was springing up everywhere. A black card for Niall Scully evened up the numbers on 53 minutes when Tyrone were only five points behind. Tyrone only got one point in that period, and Dublin rattled over two, Dean Rock and Sean Bugler opting to punch over the bar to keep their cushion intact.
With Con O’Callaghan set to come back, Dublin have a long way to go to the last day in April, when they start their defence of Leinster away to either Offaly or Wexford. They will feel good about themselves this week before they take on an inconsistent Donegal in Croke Park.
As only they can, Tyrone will decide what to keep and what to discard from this performance.
TYRONE: N Morgan; M McKernan, R McNamee, F Burns; C Meyler, J Munroe, P Harte; C Kilpatrick, P Hampsey; N Donnelly, N Sludden 0-1, K McGeary; D McCurry 0-3f, C McShane 0-2f, D Canavan
Subs: C McKenna for Donnelly (33m), R Donnelly 0-2, for Monroe, M Conroy for McGeary (both HT), L Rafferty for Sludden (59m), P Donaghy for McShane (68m)
DUBLIN: E Comerford; M Fitzsimons, D Byrne, C Murphy; J Small, J Cooper, R McDaid 0-1; B Fenton 0-1, T Lahiff 0-1; B Howard, S Bugler 0-2, N Scully 0-1; C Costello 0-2, C Kilkenny 0-2, D Rock 0-3
Subs: E Murchan for Cooper (50m), J McCarthy for Lahiff (52m), R Basquel for Costello (65m), L Gannon for McDaid (70m), L O’Dell for Bugler (73m)
Referee: Barry Cassidy (Derry)
Man of the match: Brian Fenton (Dublin)
Match rating: 4/10
THE BIG GAME AT A GLANCE
Man of the Match: Brian Fenton
Fenton is one of quite a few established Dublin figures who had been experiencing a difficult start to the league. He was back to gliding around the grass here and, in all truth, Tyrone did not have anything to rival him. They placed Padraig Hampsey on him from the start to man-mark him, but Hampsey was on the field for less than half an hour before he was sent off. Fenton was the constant option to get the ball from defence to attack and potted a trademark shot from distance.
It’s an obvious thing to say, and maybe the game was going in that direction anyway, but the visitors were 0-4 to 0-1 up when Hampsey got his black card. By the time he was back on the pitch, they had stretched it out with five points in 10 minutes, 0-9 to 0-1. From there, Tyrone were frantically bailing water.
Barry Cassidy was given a serious reception as he came off the field from the locals after disallowing Conn Kilpatrick’s goal and the red card. But he didn’t get everything wrong either.
Tyrone now have Mayo coming to town on Saturday night, followed by a long trip to Kerry for the last round. There will be much soul-searching among the group.