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Wow. Tyrone really flipped the script last night.
Not many people gave Mickey Harte’s men a chance of toppling Dublin in their Allianz Football League Round Six clash in Croke Park, but run them over they did and in some style.
Going into the game Dublin were looking at another potential league final appearance, while only a few weeks ago Tyrone were legitimate contenders for relegation following a poor start to the league.
Now, it’s Tyrone who have an outside shot at making the league final, while Dublin goes home to lick their wounds knowing that they won’t be picking up a sixth league medal in seven years.
It wasn’t by any means a bad Dublin performance, but rather a scintillating Tyrone one.
Cathal McShane was excellent throughout for the Ulster men and was deservedly awarded man of the match following a performance that yielded 1-4.
However, the performances from Donnelly brothers, Mattie and Richie set the tone throughout. The Trillick men caused havoc, setting the tone for Tyrone and are rightly our focus on this, the eighth edition of our ‘Deep Dive’ series in association with Allianz.
Tyrone have been lamented from all corners over their lack of kick passing strategy but they showed last night that a new Tyrone is in town, one that isn’t afraid to use the long ball.
Their tactics worked a treat, hammering Dublin with long balls into the full forward line that they consistently failed to cope with.
Mattie Donnelly started at full forward on the night and played inside for large parts of the first half. He set the tone after just twenty seconds when he showed all the traits of a silky ’14’ to kick Tyrone into the lead.
Richie Donnelly operated at full forward for much of last year as Tyrone made it all the way to the All-Ireland decider, however, he often found himself suffocated inside and we didn’t really get to see the best of him.
This year he has been playing at midfield where his presence is much more felt in defence and attack.
Both he and older brother Mattie played a huge part in Tyrone’s goal on 21 minutes which gave them a platform to go and take the game right to Dublin.
Richie has tracked back and receives the ball from the roving goalkeeper, Niall Morgan (who also had an excellent game) to start the move forward.
He spots the run of his brother who has come from deep inside the Tyrone forward line. Richie opts to kick the ball long, something that Tyrone did to great effect last night.
Mattie receives the ball out around the 45-metre line before turning and taking on the Dublin defence. He sucks in a couple of defenders before again kicking long into McShane who is isolated inside.
Mattie finds McShane who makes no mistake from close range.
The goal came at a crucial time for Tyrone, it gave them a launchpad to see out the half and go in leading Dublin.
Dublin mounted a comeback early in the second half, kicking three points in a row to bring the score back to within one.
However, Tyrone responded amazingly to Dublin’s purple patch. They refused to panic when under the cosh and continued to play their game.
In the lead up to this score, Tyrone again tried to use the long ball, but it was to no avail. However, they were able to recycle and retain possession. As Dublin filtered back into the defensive screen, Richie Donnelly edged up on them unmarked before receiving the pass.
He sees the open spaces of Croke Park in front of him before driving into it and kicking an excellent score to give Tyrone that cushion once more.
— The GAA (@officialgaa) March 16, 2019
It was the first of two back-to-back scores from Donnelly that edged Tyrone into a three-point lead that they never surrendered.
With the clock in the red-zone and Tyrone three points ahead, Dublin tried to throw the kitchen sink at Mickey Harte’s men.
In moments like these, leaders are needed to step up, which is exactly what Mattie Donnelly did with this incredible diving block to deny Dublin the draw.
An incredible win for Tyrone who, in truth, looked comfortable throughout which is amazing considering the calibre of opposition.
Tyrone started the game at 100 miles an hour and finished at the same pace. they weren’t deterred by Costello’s early goal, they stuck to a gameplan, executed it perfectly and Dublin simply had no answers.
On the night, there was plenty of stand out performances but it was the Donnelly brothers from Trillick that summed up all that was good about Tyrone.