Tyrone 1-10 Dublin 1-7
Holy Jorge! They’ve had stormy games at Healy Park over the years, only nothing like this, a game as much about playing the reckless wind and rain as it was each other.
In the end Tyrone whipped up a minor storm via a suitably thundering goal from Rory Brennan, in the last minute of normal time, putting the first and ultimately decisive distance on the scoreboard.
Still wounded from their record 19 point defeat to Galway last weekend, Tyrone hadn’t scored a goal since the 10th minute of the opening win over Meath; Brennan’s shot came at the perfect time, in more ways than one, brilliantly set up by Liam Rafferty and Tiernan McCann.
Because Dublin, looking to stir one last storm of their own, simply didn’t have the time in the four minutes that were added on. Although Kevin McManamon did get close for one shot at goal but his shot drifted wide.
Still the question of how – or why – the game went ahead will linger. No of us in attendance could recall worse conditions for football. Referee Cormac Reilly carried out a final inspection 30 minutes before throw-in, somehow deeming Healy Park fit to play: Teresa Mannion would not have approved. Only 3,850 hardy souls made their way inside.
Tyrone got the wind in their sails in the second half in other ways too, Niall Morgan’s three frees in quick succession – on 56, 56 and 60 minutes – would have done any kite-surfer proud the way he caught the wind.
With Niall Scully black-carded on 57 minutes, Dublin played 10 crucial minutes with 14 men, but in truth they fell short of Tyrone’s intensity in the end, a second league defeat to the Ulster side after losing out last year too.
Indeed Tyrone, with two wins and two defeats, needed to throw caution to that wind to keep alive their chances of making the final, and played throughout at times as intense as the wind, especially in defence, marching 15 men behind the ball every time they needed.
It began, suitably enough, with a minor whirlwind of a goal from Colm Basquel after just one minute and 40 seconds, a run down the middle started by Eoin Murchin, Brian Howard laying off the final pass – helped, naturally, with Jorge to their backs.
Dean Rock’s first shot on goal on 12 minutes was originally on target – until Jorge sent it wildly astray like a burst balloon at a child’s party.
Gradually the scores and quality of play defied the conditions, particularly from the Tyrone end, as points from Rory Brennan and Liam Rafferty, sweetly set up by Peter Harte, plus a super free-long from goalkeeper Niall Morgan bringing the sides level again on 22 minutes. A free each for Rock and Harte ticked things over once more.
So nothing between them at half-time – Dublin 1-2, Tyrone 0-5 – nor it appeared as they entered the tunnel, several players from either team whipping up a minor storm of their own, fists included: related or not, Tyrone’s Padraig Hampsey was shown black card just before the re-start of the second.
Tyrone did come close for a goal twice in the first half when Rafferty broke free in front of goal, his first shot stopping short in the mud, his second, on 35 minutes, blasting off the crossbar.
Into the second half though, and while the quantity of scores were naturally scare, Tyrone produced the quality one that counted most.
Tyrone now face into the final two games, to Donegal and away to Mayo with plenty to play for, Dublin won’t feel in any way blown away with Meath and Galway to come.
TYRONE: N Morgan (0-4, all frees); M Cassidy, R McNamee, L Rafferty (0-1); M McKernan. R Brennan (1-1), M O’Neill; C Cavanagh, P Hampsey; F Burns, N Sludden, D McCurry (0-1, a free); P Harte (0-2, one free), B Kennedy, C Meyler (0-1).
Subs: J McCaffrey for O’Brien (half-time), T McCann for O’Neill (45 mins), K Coney for Sludden (60 minutes), R O’Neill for McKernan (67 mins), N Kelly for Hampsey (72 mins).
DUBLIN: E Comerford; D Byrne, E O’Brien, M Fitzsimons; J McCarthy, E Murchan, C O’Shea (0-1); B Fenton (0-1), B Howard; C Kilkenny, P Mannion, N Scully (0-1); D Rock (0-4, all frees), C Basquel (1-0), S Bugler.
Subs: B McDonnell for Kennedy (half time), K McManamon for Bugler (47 mins), J Small for Fitzsimons (50 mins), C Costello for Basquel (62 mins), A Byrne for McCaffrey (67 mins, inj).
Referee: Cormac Reilly (Meath)