I went to Croker on Sunday full of optimism and sure that Tyrone were going to put it up to Dublin, however I couldn’t have been more wrong. We can have no argument about the result – we were completely outfought and overrun for the entire game.
As soon as our lads shook their opponents’ hands the blue jerseys were right in their face. The level of intensity brought by the Dubs was like nothing Tyrone faced all year.
They targeted our big players, who were all well marshalled, and young lads who were doing so well this season kept making mistakes due to the pressure they were under.
I never thought I’d say something like this about Mickey Harte, but it was totally naive on his part and he was slow to make changes on the line. In all his time with the county, I can’t remember a side of his being out-classed like that.
I’ve been saying all summer that Ulster football was falling behind, but this result makes it look even worse.
A 12-point loss in a semi-final? That’s crazy and it’s a result an Ulster side would have got in Croke Park back in the 80s.
Dublin are a different animal: they steamrolled us. They were first to every ball, breaking so many tackles and their defenders were getting hands in and dispossessing Tyrone when they had no right to.
They were so patient in attack, happy to pass it around the 45 and wait for things to open up. If there was nothing on, they weren’t going to chance it. So, it was very difficult for us to get turnovers.
When a team makes you chase them, it absolutely exhausts you and Dublin’s patience would’ve helped empty Tyrone’s players’ tanks faster than they’ve ever experienced.
Jim Gavin’s lessons from their loss to Donegal in 2014 are still there to be seen. They always have a few men in defence now and their midfielders filter back all game to plug holes. The Dubs are now harder to break down than ever.
Looking on as a forward, it’s clear that all of the Dublin starting frontmen are under immense pressure to get scores from the whistle given the strength of their bench. If a man isn’t on top of his marker, there’s a serious scoring threat waiting on the line that can take his place.
I wasn’t around for the great Kerry and Dublin teams, so for me these are the best side that I have ever seen.
You can only coach so much and tactics alone won’t get you over the line; what makes this side so strong is the abundance of quality footballers they have.
Their bench would hammer most sides in the country, their fitness levels are off the charts and they’re going to be around for some time.
A lot of people talk about how great the Tyrone teams I played in were, but I’m just thankful that we never came up against this crop at their peak. They’re incredible!
Mickey Harte showed his ruthless streak again by hoisting Sean Cavanagh off the pitch in his last game. A lot of people are saying that Tyrone didn’t have a Plan B – I completely disagree with this, but they didn’t roll it out soon enough.
The pushed Colm Cavanagh up the pitch and kept three forwards inside, however while they made chances, they couldn’t quite take them.
The way Tyrone play is so defensive: when you’re five points down then you have to switch things up and come out on play. There’s no point protecting a gap when you’re on the wrong side of it.
Sunday wasn’t Harte’s best day and I overheard plenty of Tyrone fans on the way out of Croker calling for his head, but he’s still the man for the job in my eyes.
He’s under serious pressure now and I hope he stays on.
Lastly, I was sad to hear that Sean Cavanagh has decided to hang up his boots. He’s been a massive player for Tyrone and pulled us through so many tight games over the length of his career.
He’s the most committed footballer that I’ve ever played with, that’s what’s led to his longevity. I would’ve liked to have seen him stay on for another year, potentially as an impact sub, but he has to make the right decision for himself.
A great guy who did everything for his team. He’ll definitely be missed.