Jimmy McGuinness made Mickey Harte permanent. Jimmy’s first promise to his demoralized and confused team in 2011 was that they would tear Tyrone down. Six months later, they defeated her for the first time in the Ulster Championship in the Chairman Harte’s era with a score of 2-6 to 0-9.
The following year they beat her again, 0-12 to 0-10. It was only two points, but it was an all-out two-point, McGuinness-style win. In 2013 it was Donegal 2-10 Tyrone 0-10. For three years in a row, Tyrone hadn’t scored a single goal. 2014 a breakthrough for Tyrone. You scored a goal. But they inevitably lost again, 1-13 to 1-10.
Those tough annual defeats to Donegal broke Mickey Harte and put attacking football out of his psyche. He didn’t recover. Which means Tyrone has not recovered since both things are one and the same. Playing a single striker (5’6 “Mark Bradley) against the Dublin defense in the 2017 All-Ireland semi-finals summed it up.
Before the throw-in at the last league game between Tyrone and Donegal, Tribulations tweeted: “Sludden in for Harte. Only the 13 defenders are starting now. ”It turns out they took the field with only 12 defenders, which by Hartes standards is a high risk strategy given his extreme commitment to defensive play.
Tyrone duly sought a demoralizing defeat, spared the humiliation only by a very lucky penalty and a solo goal from the extraordinary Conor McKenna, made famous from a standing start as he jumped into trash cans. Conor did an interview with Off The Ball last week in which he summed up his philosophy as follows: “I don’t think you can play the game without taking risks. This is how you know that you are good enough. ”
Against Mayo, Harte surprised everyone by giving the Son of God a beginning. Or as @Tyrone Tribulations calls him “Pascal’s nephew”. His Twitter feed reads: “Darragh Canavan begins. Darragh is Pascal’s nephew. ”Tyrone rose nine points thanks to two great goals that came out of the blue. The first from McKenna that looks more or less inconspicuous. The second started with a great 40-meter pass from McKenna to the Son of God, which made an incredibly perfect impression of God the Father. Or as Tribulations put it: “Great goal for Pascal’s nephew.”
The problem was that these were isolated moments created by two highly skilled strikers with virtually no support. In other words, it wasn’t part of any attack pattern.
The second half was all mayonnaise. Difficulties again: “Tyrone has not yet reached this half. Think you saw Declan Bonner in the stands. They pretend they’re playing shit now. Another Mayo point. ”Then, just as it seemed certain Mayo would overtake them, the normally dependable David Clarke took a catastrophic short kick-out and Wheelie Bin Man severely punished him, flicking the ball up without bending over , and even had time to slide to the ground and come back up again before being expertly networked via the near post. Another isolated event.
For the rest of the game, everything was mayo. Pascal’s nephew was withdrawn for chronic underuse, and Tyrone almost defended himself against another one-point defeat when Mayo came out in droves. Tribulation captured the tension of a last minute leave for Mayo as follows: “Just one of them. Fermanagh referee moves the ball forward due to a longstanding land dispute with the Donnellys. ”
Tyrone clearly has the players. The problem is that the manager doesn’t trust them. That is why the focus is always on defense. The six Tyron strikers should, in no particular order, be Lee Brennan, Paul Donaghy (the two-foot scoring machine Dungannon drove in her first senior championship in about 60 years), Son of God, Mattie Donnelly, Conor McKenna and Darren McCurry his. With these seasoned attackers in the field, Tyrone would be in business. Kerry or Dublin do not play defenders in the forward line. This is because they understand that the only way to win big is when you trust your strikers and have a system that emphasizes the attack. Croke Park is no place for pointless conservatism.
This fear of picking the best strikers and creating a game plan to help them make it impossible for Tyrone to get into a rhythm. Eddie Brennan always says the great Kilkenny team were able to play a role and stick with it because Cody trusted them fully. The manager authorized them to attack. It was what was expected of them. When the opportunity arose, they did so without fear.
This is often called the carotid artery. The inability to do so is why Tyrone lost to Kerry in the semifinals last year. They built a head start that day, but instead of pushing Kerry away, fear overwhelmed them. Unable to play a role, they left it up to Kerry to choose the carotid artery, an invitation the Kerry teams didn’t turn down. Nothing has changed for Tyrone, except that Conor McKenna got home in time to save her from relegation.
When we found out before the throw-in last weekend that Michael Murphy wasn’t even in the squad, we knew Donegal had only gone to Tralee to play the final league game. As her Super-8 game against Mayo at MacHale Park last year demonstrated, most of it falls on Murphy’s shoulders when the pressure eases. Her young players shirked their responsibilities that day and Murphy couldn’t win them over on his own. Michael is now 31 and cannot forever be her Atlas, the titanium god condemned by Zeus to carry heaven on his massive shoulders.
Donegal’s trajectory was the opposite of Tyron’s. Unlike Tyrone, who has been stuck in a defensive swamp for a decade, Donegal has moved with the times. Under Bonner and Stephen Rochford they play with excitement and adventure. We saw this in the last league game between these two where they played almost all of the good football.
If Bonner had Pascal’s nephew, he would be one of the first names on the team sheet instead of checking in after the defenders were selected. In truth, Tyrone – with God the Father – was supposed to hit Donegal with something he had left. In reality, they rely on Conor McKenna to win the game for them against the Run of Play, with Neil McGee playing the role of the trash can.
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