By PJ Cunningham
And now for history. With the four-in-a-row of Wexford and Kerry from the last century now emulated, there is only one final goal for Dublin – immortality, otherwise known as the five-in-a-row.
That proved a bridge too far for the great Mick O’Dwyer side of the seventies and early eighties when Seamus Darby scored that memorable goal near the end of the 1982 final.
Jim Gavin is now entering O’Dwyer territory and the big questions is – will he and his squad keep their heads and complete the drive for five by this time next year?
So the clock is ticking and heaven help those who try to stop Dublin on their way.
When you consider that they beat Tyrone pulling up, despite giving them a four-point advantage at the start of the game, you realise just how much more there is still to come from the metropolitan outfit.
Another way of evaluating the strength of the Gavin hand is to recall that he didn’t need to use the following – Paddy Andrews, Bernard Brogan, Eoghan O’Gara, Paul Flynn on Sunday while Diarmuid Connolly just might reconnect with the squad for the record breaking months of 2019.
Tyrone brought a huge crowd to a packed-out Croke Park last Sunday and they also brought belief in those early stages that quite literally knocked Dublin back on their heels as they raced into a 0-5 to 0-1 lead.
Dublin were overwhelming favourites and having won five Sams in seven seasons, you had to pinch yourself as Tyrone bossed those early proceedings with such authority. Why even Stephen Cluxton was ruffled and two early kick outs went to marauding Red Hands in the white heat of battle.
It looked like manager Mickey Harte had done his homework and then just as the thought was lingering that an upset could be on the cards, Dublin plugged into overdrive and totally shifted the flow of the play.
Aside from a few easy wides, the Ulster side had done virtually everything right – their hits had been impressive and their supporting surges had the Dublin defence gasping for air in the wake of their opponents searing runs.
You sensed that they needed this near perfection level of performance to continue out the field if they were to kick on and win.
The first sight that the challengers had feet of clay came with three kick outs in a row after a quarter of an hour.
Then the Dublin forward press loomed like a large shadow over Niall Morgan and the turn overs started to give Dublin clean possession and players running off each other’s shoulders.
Now it was Tyrone who were on the back foot and with Ciarán Kilkenny easing outfield to orchestrate proceedings, Dublin hit the turbo button.
— The GAA (@officialgaa) September 2, 2018
Kilkenny won the possession which led to the penalty – a hotly disputed one at that – which was given by Conor Lane as Paul Mannion pulled his left trigger to shoot after the ball was fed on by Con O’Callaghan.
Tiernan McCann was given a yellow for the tackle and the Kilmacud Crokes forward picked himself up to blast the ball past Morgan and level the game.
Mannion showed a prodigious appetite for work for as well as finishing clinically, he was working industriously at the heart of his own defence where he made a vital block as Tyrone sought to land a counter punch on the scoreboard.
Kilkenny too went from being anonymous in the first 15 minutes to eponymous as he bestrode the pitch for the rest of the game like a colossus.
The No 14 won the break from the kick-out after the penalty to allow Dean Rock beautifully shoot over the bar.
The sharpshooter in chief was at the end of another blue wave to raise another white flag and suddenly, the game had swung from 0-5 to 0-1 for Tyrone to 1-4 to 0-5 in the holders’ favour.
It was as if Dublin’s players in synch had kick-started into the action as O’Callaghan was again the linkman as his hand pass was palmed home by the industrious Niall Scully.
Rock, who had a few problems with frees, was making up for this deficiency from play and scored the last two points of the half to push his side into an unassailable 2-7 to 0-6 interval advantage.
You know Tyrone will seldom die with their boots on, and true to form, they came out fighting by scoring the first two points of the second half.
Big Brian Fenton and his fellow Raheny clubman Brian Howard kicked a brace to push the lead back to seven points – out of arm’s length for the challengers to really believe.
Mickey Harte emptied his bench to find a solution and his placing of big Colm Cavanagh on the edge of the square caused havoc, with Peter Harte’s converted penalty coming from a panic foul by Philly McMahon on the big midfielder.
That score made the denouement much more interesting and when John Small got sent off for the second successive year with an actual seven minutes of play left in the ref’s adjudication, no one went home early.
The Dubs, though, had fresh legs on such as Kevin McManamon and Michael Dara Macauley obliged with the score to ease them to victory.
Dublin: S Cluxton; P McMahon, C O’Sullivan, J Cooper; J Small, E Murchan, J McCaffrey (0-1); B Fenton (0-2), J McCarthy; N Scully (1-0), C O’Callaghan, B Howard (0-1); P Mannion (1-1 pen), C Kilkenny (0-3), D Rock (0-7, 0-2f, 0-1 ’45). Subs: M Fitzsimons for O’Sullivan (inj) 26 mins; C Costello for Scully 52 mins; K McManamon (0-1) for Mannion 57 mins; D Daly for Murchan 57 mins; E Lowndes for Cooper 63 mins, MD Macauley (0-1) for Rock 66 mins.
Tyrone: N Morgan; R McNamee, T McCann (0-1), P Hampsey (0-1); M Donnelly, M McKernan, R Brennan; C Cavanagh, C McShane (0-2); K McGeary (0-1), N Sludden, C Meyler; M Bradley (0-2), P Harte (1-1, 1-0 pen, 0-1f), C McAliskey (0-3, 0-1f). Subs: L Brennan (0-3f) for Meyler 39 mins; F Burns for Sludden 45 mins; H Loughran for McGeary (bc) 48 mins; R Donnelly for McAliskey 48 mins; D McClure for McShane 54 mins; R O’Neill for Bradley 62 mins.
Referee: C Lane (Cork).