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Dublin: 14 °C Wednesday 26 September, 2018

Cavanagh bows out, Dubs close in on three-in-a-row and Connolly makes his return

We run through the 5 big talking points after Dublin dismantled Tyrone in the All-Ireland semi-final.

Kevin O’Brien reports from Croke Park

1. Dublin close in on three-in-a-row

DUBLIN ARE JUST 70 minutes away from completing an All-Ireland three-in-a-row, which looked an almost impossible feat in the modern game a few years ago.

Eoghan O'Gara celebrates scoring his sides second goal Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

Kerry were the last team to string together three titles between 1984 and 1986, but it’s an achievement that’s now within touching distance for Gavin’s men.

There hasn’t been much hype regarding a potential three-peat during the summer but you can expect the talk ratchet up now a couple of levels in the coming weeks.

2. Tyrone’s flat display

The manner of Tyrone’s commanding victories in the run-up to this game indicated they were ready to challenge Dublin, but it was apparent from early on that they were miles off competing.

The Red Hand will point to Con O’Callaghan’s fourth minute goal as a hammer blow to their chances, but in reality Dublin had little trouble in scything through their defence.

Mickey Harte’s men never got their transition game going and apart from Peter Harte’s garbage time penalty which was saved by Stephen Cluxton, they never troubled his goal.

When Tyrone pushed on in the second-half, Kevin McManamon rattled the crossbar while Paul Flynn had a shot saved from Niall Morgan. The margin of victory could have been far wider had Dublin taken all of their chances.

Sean Cavanagh replaced during the second half Source: James Crombie/INPHO

3. Sean Cavanagh bows out

There was no fairytale ending for Sean Cavanagh this afternoon. His 89th and final championship appearance for Tyrone was the biggest defeat in his legendary 15-year career.

The Moy powerhouse had an off-colour day. He converted a free but hit two wides and was withdrawn with 15 minutes remaining. There was little he could have done as Tyrone struggled to penetrate the Dublin rearguard.

The Dublin players lined up to shake Cavanagh’s hand after the final whistle, while he had a warm embrace with Stephen Cluxton – the only player to make more appearances than him.

4. Dublin have mastered playing against mass defences

Back in 2011 Dublin were ill-prepared to deal with Donegal’s defensive web as Jim McGuinness put 14 bodies behind the ball and frustrated the life out of Pat Gilroy’s team.

Donegal lost that game but three years later another McGuinness masterplan came off as they crucified the Dubs on the counter-attack and ran out convincing winners.

But there was no danger of any sort of a repeat of those contests here.

From watching Dublin closely over the last couple of years, you get the sense they’ve spent countless hours on the training field honing a system that breaks down the blanket defence.

Jason Sherlock’s influence is obvious as Dublin drag defenders over and back before making excellent use of basketball-style screens to set up scoring chances on the loop.

Diarmuid Connolly enters the field Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

5. Diarmuid Connolly makes his return

When Eric Lowndes stood beside the fourth official as he was about to be introduced, the levels of noise sky-rocketed in the stadium. Lowndes was wearing number 12 that Connolly made his own over the years and the crowd mistook him for the St Vincent’s forward.

Four minutes later, Connolly was on for real and the crowd were in full voice as they welcomed him back onto the field. He didn’t have enough time to make any real impact on the game, but it was a curious decision by Gavin not to bring Connolly on earlier with the view of getting him more game-time ahead of likely potential final reunion with his adversary Lee Keegan.

Then again, Dublin’s training games over the next few weeks probably provide a higher level of competition for Connolly than anything Tyrone mustered up today.

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Kevin O'Brien

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