All Ireland SFC Semi-Final
Dublin boss Jim Gavin hailed the performance of Con O’Callaghan after The Dubs eased into the All Ireland final with a comfortable victory over Mickey Harte’s Tyrone.
Just Mayo now stand between the Dubs and a three-in-a-row, and a fifth title since 2011, when the sides meet on 17 September.
In his debut season, the 21-year-old scored 1-2 from play in an impressive and mature display beyond his years. “I think what you see out there on the pitch is what we see in our sessions,” said Gavin.
“He’s been in good form with his club Cuala, he had a good U-21 campaign, but he’ll play his part like the rest of the guys.
“That’s probably the team’s biggest strength. This set of players, they all want to get game-time. Whether that’s the full 70 minutes or seven minutes at the end.
“That’s our biggest strength, they all want to play football. There were 10 players today that didn’t get gametime, some of them didn’t travel on the team bus and it’s hardest on them.”
Gavin’s charges set the pace from the off with O’Callaghan striding forward in the fifth minute before despatching the ball into the top corner of the Tyrone net, beyond the desperate dive of Niall Morgan.
Gavin’s men 1-9 to 0-5 ahead at the break, leaving Tyrone to produce something special in the second half.
A Tyrone goal might have made things interesting, but they couldn’t fashion one and Dublin led by seven by the time substitute Eoghan O’Gara added the icing late on with goal number two.
To complete Tyrone’s day Stephen Cluxton saved a late Peter Harte penalty to deny Ttyrone the very slim consolation of a goal.
Aside from O’Callaghan, other positives for Gavin included Paul Flynn making a notable cameo following his introduction by clipping three gorgeous points, and Diarmuid Connolly’s return to competitive action in the closing moments following suspension.
Despite Dublin outclassing their opponents Gavin wasn’t satisfied and says his side will need to be better for Mayo.
“We played an All-Ireland Final last year and didn’t perform so we’ve a lot of work to do to try to get that performance in three weeks’ time,” he added.
Tyrone boss Harte paid tribute to Dublin, calling it the “best Dublin team that I have faced in my championship career at senior level”.
“I think you have to give them that now. I wasn’t sure before today if that was the case, but I think I can be quite sure of that now,” he said.
“We missed a penalty, various things that would have made the scoreboard more respectable, but it wasn’t going to hide the truth that Dublin were far superior today, and that’s a fact we have to accept.
“And maybe it’s a good insight to know what standard you need to get to now if you want to play at their level regularly.”
Although admitting that his side were second best to Dublin, Harte cited O’Callaghan fifth minute goal, which left Tyrone trailing by three, as crucial.
He felt his side were alway chasing the game from the moment O’Callaghan fired Dublin’s first goal to the top corner of the Tyrone net with some style.
“I do believe the critical score was the goal. Until that time, it could have been a bit of a face-off up to half-time, and I think if we had held out to half-time without the goal in the game, we might not have conceded as many points,” he said.
“But Dublin were always superior, and particularly after that goal, the game was played on their terms, not ours, and that was not what we set out to do.
“We held out to half-time trying to play the system that we know best, but it wasn’t proving very effective for us, so we had to change things up at half-time, and there’s a great gamble in that.”
It was not the end Sean Cavanagh had hoped for, as defeat brought the curtain down on his 16-years playing for Tyrone.
“It’s all I know, representing Tyrone and just loving my county like anyone else. I grew up supporting my county, I’ll always support the county,” he said.
“I’ve done my best. I’ve tried, I’ve given everything I possibly can for as long as I possibly can. I’ve had an amazing journey, I’ve been very lucky and successful in so many ways.”
DUBLIN: Stephen Cluxton; Jonny Cooper, Cian O’Sullivan, Michael Fitzsimons; Philly McMahon, John Small, Jack McCaffrey; Brian Fenton, James McCarthy; Ciaran Kilkenny, Con O’Callaghan, Niall Scully; Paul Mannion, Paddy Andrews, Dean Rock. SUBS: Paul Flynn for Niall Scully (45), Kevin McManamon for Paddy Andrews (45), Darren Daly for John Small (52), Eoghan O’Gara for Dean Rock (62), Eric Lowndes for Paul Mannion (65), Diarmuid Connolly for Con O’Callaghan (70).
TYRONE: Niall Morgan; Aidan McCrory, Ronan McNamee, Cathal McCarron; Tiernan McCann, Padraig Hampsey, Peter Harte; Colm Cavanagh, Conall McCann; David Mulgrew, Niall Sludden, Mattie Donnelly; Mark Bradley, Sean Cavanagh, Kieran McGeary. SUBS: Declan McClure for Conall McCann (29), Rory Brennan for Kieran McGeary (HT), Darren McCurry for David Mulgrew (42), Ronan O’Neill for Mark Bradley (50), Conor Meyler for Sean Cavanagh (55), Padraig McNulty for Ronan McNamee (60).