Tyrone’s tilt at title has Dooher as the driver
Tyrone will again have a major say in determining the destination of Sam Maguire come the third Sunday in September.
Down, the young pretenders, were firmly put in their place at a sun kissed Casement Park on Saturday evening as greater experience and know-how saw Mickey Harte’s men emerge triumphant.
And yet it had all began so promisingly for the Mourne men.
Playing some delightful football, they contributed greatly to an absorbing first 35 minutes, but on the restart the wheels came off spectacularly.
Tyrone, making light of losing Stephen O’Neill to injury after only 12 minutes to be replaced by Brian McGuigan, reshuffled their forces to such good effect that Down could only muster two second-half points.
When the match was very much in the balance midway through the opening half, who else but the inspirational and ageless Brian Dooher stepped up to make a priceless contribution with two excellent long range points.
As captain he was displaying leadership of the highest quality at a period in the match when it was most needed and in a sense that exemplified the difference in the two sides.
Apart from captain Ambrose Rogers in the first-half Down had no player capable of standing up and taking the game by the scruff of the neck, whereas Tyrone had leaders right through the field.
If Dooher set the standard in the first 35 minutes then Martin Penrose followed his example in the second-half. The Tyrone corner forward played deep, winning crucial breaking ball in the midfield area and finished with five points.
The reality is that once Tyrone began to dominate the midfield area by breaking the ball, Down were in trouble and suddenly from being in a position of some strength and leading eight points to four, they found themselves 10 points to eight adrift at half-time.
From a Down perspective it didn’t get any better in the second-half as they found themselves overwhelmed by their opponents relentless pressure to such an extent that any game plan they had simply disintegrated long before the finish.
And yet for all their failings Down had goal scoring opportunities at the end of each half which, if taken, might just have put a different complexion on things.
And yet, in a sense, that best summed up their afternoon when they had problems converting even the simplest of frees.
Now their only hope of Championship salvation rests with the qualifiers while Tyrone have a four weeks break before facing Monaghan or Fermanagh in the Ulster final.