All-Ireland winning ex-Donegal manager and Sky Sports GAA pundit Jim McGuiness tells Damian Dolan that Tyrone will need to think outside of the box to prevent Dublin making it four-in-a-row
Mickey Harte and his management team must come up with something “slightly left field” tactically which Dublin “haven’t seen” before if Tyrone are to stop Dublin from making it four-in-a-row, says Jim McGuinness.
McGuinness, who won All-Irelands with Donegal as a manager and player in 2002 and 1992 and is part of Sky Sports Ireland’s pundit team, says Sunday’s All-Ireland football final promises to be a fascinating battle of wits between Mickey Harte and Jim Gavin, neither of whom have lost an All-Ireland final.
Tyrone must find an answer to Dublin’s possession game, with Gavin’s side dominating their opponents through controlling the ball. Tyrone must get “pressure on the ball”.
“There’s a lot for Mickey Harte to think about and get his head around,” McGuinness told the Irish World.
“Tyrone are one of the teams who did manage to do it (in the Super 8s). They created a lot of turnovers in Omagh, but ultimately Dublin played them in their own backyard and were able to squeeze through.
“Tyrone will have learnt a lot from that game.”
Kick-outs will one of many big tactical battlegrounds and just how “aggressive” Tyrone push up and go after Dublin’s kick-outs will be “significant”.
Despite the obvious risks, McGuinness believes Tyrone must “take Stephen Cluxton on” if they are to knock Dublin off their stride. Tyrone can ill-afford to hand Dublin 40 uncontested kick-outs.
“You’ve got to find a way to turn this Dublin juggernaut off track……if the pressure isn’t immense they’re going to find a man every single time,” said McGuinness.
“It’s risk versus reward. He’s [Cluxton] proven he can go over the press and send midfielders and half forwards on their way. That creates its own risks.”
On their own kick-outs, Tyrone must be “fantastic”. They must show they can be “dangerous” and “carry a threat”, but also “protect themselves”.
McGuinness added: “If they don’t win the Dublin kick-out, which is incredibly difficult, they must win the battle on their own.”
What system Tyrone adopt in open play will also be fascinating. In recent years, Mayo have been the one team to “get close to Dublin” by using a man-for-man system.
But McGuinness believes it would be against type for Harte to switch now and adopt a similar approach, and so doesn’t foresee Harte sending his team out to go toe-to-toe with the Dubs.
“It’s not in their make-up; they want to get bodies behind the ball and they want to break,” he said.
“You practice things weekly, monthly and yearly, and then to change it all, I think that would very difficult.”
Winning the ball will be the difficulty and McGuiness believes Harte and Co are going to have to be “creative in how they press the ball” if they are to prevent Dublin from dominating the possession between the 45 and the 65.
Central to Dublin’s recycling game is centre forward Ciaran Kilkenny, who McGuinness likens to a point guard in basketball, running Dublin’s offence.
“Dublin will go in and if it’s not perfect they will come out and recycle it, and they’ll go the other side. Tyrone have to find stop that,” he said.
It was McGuinness’s Donegal which perfected the strategy of getting 15 men behind the ball, swamping the opposition and pressurising them into turnovers.
Dublin, though, are adept at “going back out” and beginning again if they sense it isn’t on.
“When they go back out they need to be met with pressure from the other side of the pitch. You’d be better with 11 back and leave four up, and then squeeze them from behind,” he said.
“At the moment the whole game is in front of Dublin. They see the whole landscape and they understand where they’re going to get a bottle-neck and meet pressure, and when that happens they just come back out, recycle and restart the attack.”
Alternatively putting 15 behind the ball and just sitting in a central block is an option. But as they did against Donegal in the Super 8s, Dublin just kept the ball in the final 20 minutes.
If they were to adopt such an approach from throw in, however, could challenge Dublin’s philosophy, and their patience.
“Then they have a decision to make. Do they just keep the ball, or do they just go in, under peer pressure from their own supporters,” said McGuinness.
“It will be interesting to see what Mickey Harte comes up with, but it needs to be something different.
“Dublin have a tendency to rack up big scores in a short periods of time and it could be a six or seven point game after 20 minutes.
“But Tyrone are young, they’re hungry, and it’s their first All-Ireland. They will want to try and make it count.”
Whatever tactical masterplan Harte comes up with, and despite the size of the task before them, McGuinness says Tyrone won’t be found wanting when it comes to self-belief.
“They always believe that they are deserving to be there, and they’ve got a right to be there. That transmits across the pitch,” he said.
“Dublin have the capacity to play in surges and blitz you. How you respond will have a big bearing.
“Tyrone will go in with the same level of entitlement in their mind as Dublin, and that will be worth a few points in itself.”
The All Ireland Senior Football final between Dublin and Tyrone can be seen on Sky Sports Arena and via online streaming service NOW TV.