Farrell: 'We came up here to play football and that was needless at half-time'

You’d suck the top off an entire packet of pencils trying to settle on the most appropriate opening par after a night, and a game, such as this.
Farrell: 'We came up here to play football and that was needless at half-time'

Tyrone 1-10 Dublin 1-7

You’d suck the top off an entire packet of pencils trying to settle on the most appropriate opening par after a night, and a game, such as this.

Tyrone wing-forward Darren McCurry races past Dublin full-forward Ciarán Kilkenny during the Allianz NFL tie on Saturday. Said Dublin manager Dessie Farrell : ‘They showed that bit more hunger and appetite, while turnovers killed us in that game.’ Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Tyrone wing-forward Darren McCurry races past Dublin full-forward Ciarán Kilkenny during the Allianz NFL tie on Saturday. Said Dublin manager Dessie Farrell : ‘They showed that bit more hunger and appetite, while turnovers killed us in that game.’ Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Tyrone taking Dessie Farrell’s unbeaten record away?

The appalling weather conditions, and Farrell stating, “A GAA official said to me that only for the TV being here the game would not go ahead”?

Niall Morgan’s place-kicking masterclass?

Or the fairly grave scenes at half-time, caught as ever by a concerned citizen on a mobile phone and freely available for anyone to watch players pucking the heads off each other as they made their way down the tunnel.

Let’s start with that.

“All I will say is that we came up here to play football and that was needless what happened at half-time,” was Farrell’s reaction.

“I could not see it. There were a hundred people in the tunnel ahead of me.”

And Tyrone manager Mickey Harte?

“I didn’t see too much, there were just a lot of bodies in a confined space. Maybe that was a good thing, that nobody could get doing any damage to each other.”

Neither Harte or Farrell are wholly responsible for the behaviour of their players of course, but there could be fairly serious repercussions and suspensions coming down the track, given the amount of footage already available.

That aside, Tyrone’s ability to come out on top of a dogfight has probably saved them in this league. Against Kerry in Edendork, the conditions were similarly dreadful and they carved out a win. Here, they struggled badly in the third quarter after Páraig Hampsey was black-carded before the game restarted — evidently for his role in the tunnel fight — and Dublin moved into a two-point lead after being level at the break.

At that stage, the All-Ireland champions usually assume control of a game’s flow. But this was no normal night and the pitch and weather wouldn’t permit it. Darren McCurry converted a free before goalkeeper Niall Morgan hit three consecutive Tyrone frees to grab the lead. Each of them were on a sliding scale of gorgeousness from ‘wow’ to ‘holy f***.’

His fine motor skills were appreciated by his manager.

“It’s critical,” said Harte.

“The last two games we’ve won, his kicking off the ground was critical.

“We did a serious amount of work to win those frees and if they’re being missed, that work’s in vain.

“When you get a score, the players feel good, that it’s worth working for those frees.”

A Dean Rock free levelled the game for the sixth time before Tyrone did to Dublin what Dublin do to so many by hitting a late goal.

Credit must go to substitute Tiernan McCann who began a move down the right flank, combining with Liam Rafferty. A late run came in the guise of Rory Brennan and the trailing Dublin defence couldn’t quite read his angle. The Trillick man made straight for goal and put it high in the roof of the net beyond Evan Comerford.

A few things. There was only one minute of normal time left at this point. Just four minutes — correctly — was awarded for time added on and crucially, referee Cormac Reilly stuck to this.

Without a pristine pitch to execute their game-saving plays, being three points behind, Dublin engineered one final raid but when Kevin McManamon was presented with a sight on goal, he hooked his shot wide to the left of the post.

The 3,850 hardy souls here were gifted rich entertainment, and the cheer that greeted the final whistle felt a bit like old times in Healy Park, all the sweeter given Tyrone’s bi-polar form and the sight of Cathal McShane in a compression boot.

Dublin had looked up for the game in the early stages when late replacement Colm Basquel netted a goal after two minutes, but Tyrone are a doughty lot when they get into trench warfare.

For example, they turned over Dublin eight times in their own 45 metre zone in the first half alone. Would that have happened under Jim Gavin?

“You don’t like to lose, full stop,” admitted Farrell afterwards.

“It was a feisty affair but it is not the end of the world by any stretch of the imagination but it is just your competitive instincts, you don’t like coming out the wrong end of those duels.”

He sensed that given the prevailing conditions, perhaps there was a bit being held back in any event.

“There was a bit of that to be sure. That would be natural enough but credit to both sides they went at it.

“It takes a bit of courage to do that but that is no excuse because it was difficult for both sides.

“They showed that bit more hunger and appetite, while turnovers killed us in that game.”

As for Tyrone, they have one foot out of the relegation grave, and as players headed down the tunnel afterwards, substitute Ronan O’Neill smiled as he shouted, “We’re not dead yet, boys!” to reporters.

It felt like a natural kickback from the 19-point humiliation to Galway last weekend. Harte agreed.

“Absolutely,” he said when asked if the Tuam defeat stung.

“I’ve been managing Tyrone teams for 30 years now, since 1991, and I never suffered a defeat like that at any level.

“Of course I was stung, and they were stung. I shared that sting with them tonight before they came here.”

Wouldn’t doubt it. At all.

Scorers for Tyrone: N Morgan (0-4 frees), R Brennan (1-1), P Harte (0-2), L Rafferty, C Meyler (0-1 each), D McCurry (0-1 free)

Scorers for Dublin: D Rock (0-4 frees), C Basquel (1-0), B Fenton, C O’Shea, N Scully (0-1 each)

TYRONE: N Morgan; M Cassidy, R McNamee, L Rafferty; M McKernan, R Brennan, M O’Neill; C Cavanagh, P Hampsey; F Burns, N Sludden, D McCurry; P Harte, B Kennedy, C Meyler

Subs: B McDonnell for Kennedy (HT), T McCann for O’Neill (45m), K Coney for Sludden (61m), R O’Neill for McKernan (65m), N Kelly for Hampsey (70m)

DUBLIN: E Comerford; M Fitzsimons; E O’Brien, D Byrne; E Murchan, B Howard, C O’Shea; B Fenton, J McCarthy; C Basquel, S Bugler, N Scully; P Mannion, C Kilkenny, D Rock

Subs: J McCaffrey for O’Brien (HT), K McManamon for Bugler (45m), J Small for Fitzsimons (49m), C Costello for Basquel (61m), A Byrne for McCaffrey (65m)

Referee: Cormac Reilly (Meath)

The game in 60 seconds

Can’t ignore: For all the hand-wringing and one-time combative players turned pundits being ‘shocked’ at events here at half-time, the players will not care one ounce about it. It all shows us that there is nothing faked in the rivalry between this pair.

It mattered: The weather. Being straight, a game should not have been played in Omagh on Saturday evening and you can thank the heavens or fate that no serious damage occurred.

“A GAA official said to me that only for the TV being here the game would not go ahead. It was the same for both sides,” said Dessie Farrell, in an admission that will raise eyebrows in some places.

Main man: Niall Morgan was the winning of this game for Tyrone. His ability to strike a ball was the reason Mickey Harte brought him in back in 2013, and over the last three years, he has taken his overall game to another level. His ability to judge a kick in these conditions was jaw-dropping.

Physio room: We can only comment on what we see with our own eyes, but many will be perplexed that Jack McCaffrey, recovering from injury, was sent on at half-time after sitting cold for the previous 40 minutes. He lasted just half an hour before being replaced by Aaron Byrne.

Man in black: Cormac Reilly would have needed a pair of eyes on the back of his head to have dealt with all the stuff going on off the ball, or, even, another referee altogether.

Made a brave call to even play the game, and a possibly bizarre one to award a black card to one player – Padraig Hampsey after the half-time row. But he was on a hiding to nothing here.

What’s next: Tyrone now head to Donegal on March 14th with more than just pre-Championship markers on the line. Dublin would appear nailed-on to get back to winning ways when they host neighbours Meath the day after.

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