Johnny Doyle: ‘You’d have to be a brave man to bet against Dublin doing the five-in-a-row’

Updated Sep 2nd 2018, 8:23 PM

COMING UP TO Croke Park today there was an air of inevitability about this game.

You were clutching at straws wondering what way Tyrone could win it and what way Mickey Harte would set-up or if he could pull a trick out of the hat.

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

One thing they couldn’t do was invite Dublin onto them an in fairness they didn’t. Tyrone had a great start but I felt if they were going to pull off an upset everything had to go right for them and everything had to go wrong for Dublin.

In the last four or five years, we can’t reference too many days when everything did go wrong for Dublin. Dean Rock missed a couple of early frees but he steadied the ship after that and top-scored with seven points.

Stephen Cluxton saw one kick-out intercepted and another went over the sideline in the first 10 minutes, but after that he found the man every time. Dublin retained 29 of his 31 restarts which is just phenomenal.

The one thing I’d say is Tyrone made a couple of costly mistakes early on when they were four or five points up and Dublin punished them ruthlessly. Tyrone gave away the penalty that Paul Mannion scored and the Red Hand needed to win the next kick-out – but Niall Morgan’s short restart went wrong and Dublin added another score.

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

With that quickfire 1-1 Dublin were back in the game. I was watching for the body language of the Tyrone players at this stage and it sort of sucked the life out of them after they had burst out of the blocks.

I was sitting beside Kildare selector Ronan Sweeney and with 20 minutes to go he was saying Dublin had it sewn up. Even though Tyrone came with a bit of a flourish at the end, Dublin never really looked in danger of letting it slip.

What more can you say about Dublin at this stage? They’re like a machine. Even when the game turns against them they have that inner belief that they’ll see it out. That’s exactly what they did. They’re an awesome team and probably the best team Gaelic football has ever seen.

The accolades will come their way this winter and then the talk of the five-in-a-row will start. They’ll be driving hard after that and you’d be a brave man to bet against it happening. They just make the game so simple. They’re a team of superstars without having one stand-out player.

And it’s the little things they do that impress me most. When Paul Mannion was called ashore in the 58th minute for Kevin McManamon, he gave his replacement a slap on the back as if to say, ‘I did my best, you finish it off now.’

Mannion was flying it and had 1-1 on the board but there were no airs or graces about him as he came off the field. He never looked towards Jim Gavin as if it say, ‘Why me?’ They just seem to have that team spirit. Nearly every team talks about creating that kind of mentality but Dublin genuinely have it.

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

You have to give Gavin huge credit for creating that culture. You read all about the All Blacks sweeping the shed and how no individual is bigger than the team, but Dublin have brought it to a new level in GAA terms. It has to be admired.

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It’s all well and good saying that but when things are not going your way it’s not the easiest thing to put the team first. From the outside looking in Gavin has created that team ethos in everything they do. He has to be complimented for that.

Dublin are so patient on the ball. They can bring it from the Cusack Stand side right over to the Hogan Stand and nobody ever pulls the trigger with a low percentage shot. They just wait until the right moment.

In contrast, during the first-half Tyrone’s Michael McKernan stole up and took a shot from a very narrow angle. I’d say if he had 100 kicks on his own from there he’d struggle to get a score. That’s the difference. Dublin are so efficient with the ball and there’s no big secret to their play – they just work really hard.

I thought Ciaran Kilkenny was immense today and he must be the frontrunner for Footballer of the Year. You’ve love to get your hands on his GPS stats. He never stops running, he does the simple things well and he kicked three points from play. Sometimes he gets a bit of criticism but his role has changed this year.

He finished as top-scorer from open play this season with 2-24 which is great shooting. He used to get criticised for all the hand-passing but he has added that scoring threat and I think he only missed one shot today. For me, he’s the standout candidate for the big honour.

Jack McCaffrey, Brian Howard, Brian Fenton are probably the others are in the running but Kilkenny gets the nod from me.

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Tyrone had Tiernan McCann in a man-marking role on the Castleknock man today but he never flinched. It probably hurt Tyrone at the far end too as it left them with one less attacking option.

Kilkenny’s work off the ball is an under-rated part of his game and he makes run after run. When he pops up with the ball he often has two or three yards of space and you’re wondering, ‘Where did he come from?’ He makes so many runs to get on the ball and does the simple things well. He was fantastic again today and he’s a big jewel in the Dublin crown without a doubt.

Peter Harte stuck the penalty away well and fought hard for Tyrone, but Mattie Donnelly, Niall Sludden, Colm Cavanagh needed to be at their best today. They were probably a bit below what they’d expect of themselves. You need your big players on the big day and I thought they were a little bit below par.

To their credit, Tyrone fought to the bitter end and caused Dublin a few problems late on. But ultimately Dublin were able to take whatever body punches Tyrone had and deliver a few of their own. And Dublin made sure those punches landed. That was the big difference for me.

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