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Analysis: Cluxton's best ever final display, Tyrone's sweeper and can anyone stop the Dubs in 2019?

The42 columnist Sean Murphy takes a closer look at Dublin’s All-Ireland final victory over Tyrone.

THERE IS NO doubt following this game that this Dublin side is a machine that does not look like it will relent any time soon.

Michael Fitzsimons with Lee Brennan and Peter Harte Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Last Sunday, Jim Gavin’s side joined only three other teams by achieving four All-Irelands in a row and it is hard to see how they will be beaten in 2019. Credit must go to Tyrone who did so much right in this game but fell short to a higher quality team.

Dublin players’ in-game awareness

One of the outstanding characteristics of this Dublin team is their ability to adjust in-game to what the opposition are doing. This is one of the biggest strengths these guys have.

Last Sunday, Tyrone went four points ahead with 15 minutes on the clock. On the next Tyrone attack, Dublin dropped all 15 men behind the ball, ensuring that Tyrone would not go further ahead and forced Cathal McShane into poor shot location and sent the ball wide.

From the kickout, Stephen Cluxton sent a ball over the top to the arriving Jack McCaffery who bombed up the Cusack Stand side and slipped a pass to Ciaran Kilkenny who split the posts.

Stephen Cluxton acknowledges Hill 16 Source: James Crombie/INPHO

On Niall Morgan’s restart, they went man for man and the Tyrone stopper hit a poor kick to Ciaran Kilkenny. He offloaded to Paul Mannion who was brought down for a penalty which he converted.

The next two plays, Dublin again pushed up on Tyrone’s kickouts and were rewarded with two more points directly from it. They were then sitting two points ahead of Tyrone. The change in approach came directly from the players on the pitch.

Another example of this was as they approached half-time, they wanted to kill the game and waste time and ensure they went in with a strong lead. Their ever-present leader Jonny Cooper went down injured on a Tyrone restart and killed any momentum that Tyrone were trying to build.

As the game looked to be slipping away from Tyrone, they decided to put Colm Cavanagh in to full forward in an attempt to salvage something. In Dublin’s semi-final against Galway, a target man in Damien Comer caused them serious problems early.

When Tyrone did this, Brian Howard dropped directly in front of him showing that they once again had learnt from previous experiences.

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Tyrone’s negative – early sweeper

While it is very hard to be too hard on Tyrone’s efforts last Sunday as they did an awful lot of things right, one area I felt that went wrong for them was the deployment of Colm Cavanagh, and how they transitioned him.

As Dublin gained possession be it from a kickout or a turnover won, Colm Cavanagh immediately went straight back to cover the “D” area and ensure Dublin would not run through the middle and score an easy goal.

The logic of this is very easy to understand, however at times, Colm Cavanagh was back in his position up to 30 seconds before Dublin crossed the 45-metre line making him  ineffective for this time and meaning that Dublin always had a plus-one in attack as they went forward.

Brian Fenton with Colm Cavanagh Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

This made it incredibly hard for Tyrone to get direct contact on their opposition higher up the pitch. Dublin are incredibly fluent and smart in their play when coming up against an approach, they will not bring down the middle but will instead travel down the wings with angled runners coming off the shoulder.

They continue to run at these angles making the sweeper redundant in his job. Dublin on the other hand transition the sweeper more effectively by a player dropping; off Cian O Sullivan early on and Jonny Cooper later when the opposition cross the 45. This allows them to go man for man early on in a Tyrone attack.

If a team are to beat Jim Gavin’s men in 2019, there is no question that they will have to be able to go man for man at times in defence. Dublin cannot be allowed to continue to gain momentum as they bring the ball up the pitch.

The kickout battle

Stephen Cluxton delivered probably his finest display in a final on Sunday. The Parnells man finished with a kickout retention of 94%. This was partly down to Tyrone having their press not right, but the Dublin keeper must be commended for his pinpoint accuracy. He did not lose one kickout in the second half of this game.

Screen Shot 2018-09-04 at 16.02.54

Amazingly in last year’s final versus Mayo, he did not lose one kickout in the second half either! Tyrone from Niall Morgan’s kicks retained 71%, winning 17 out of 24. The overall kickouts ended 65% to 35% in Dublin’s favour.

The major difference between the sides however comes from how many scores that both teams got directly from the winning of the kickout.

Screen Shot 2018-09-04 at 16.03.01

Dublin scored 1-2 directly from the winning of seven of Tyrone’s kickouts while Tyrone scored 0-2 directly from Dublin’s kickouts. The difference on their own kickout was substantial also with Dublin having a direct return of 1-7 compared to Tyrone’s 0-4.

Teams going forward will have to get a press on Stephen Cluxton’s kickouts. He cannot be allowed to keep going short. It is acting as a launchpad for Dublin’s attacks as they are so comfortable on the ball.

Attack efficiency

Along with not losing one kickout in the second half, Dublin unbelievably did not hit one wide in the second half. Dublin’s six wides all came in the opening half. They finished with a scoring efficiency of 61%.

Screen Shot 2018-09-04 at 16.03.08 (1)

Tyrone on the other hand hit 16 wides and had a shooting efficiency of 47%. For an underdog like Tyrone to have any chance at conquering a team like Dublin, then their shooting must be over the 60% mark.

Screen Shot 2018-09-04 at 16.03.17

Mickey Harte will be very unhappy with some of the shooting choices that his team took, rushing the shot at times from outside their scoring zone instead of working the ball around and waiting on an opening to take the shot on.

Dublin showed how to do this to perfection with Brian Fenton’s point in the 52nd minute where Dublin had held on to possession for over two minutes until the opportunity presented itself.

Can anyone stop the Dubs in 2019?

Philip McMahon celebrates after the game with the Sam Maguire Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

For Tyrone, 2018 will be looked at as a year that brought about some progress. They lost their Ulster crown which will have disappointed them. They did however avenge their defeat from Monaghan in the All Ireland semi final.

Defeating Dublin has once again proved a bridge too far. Will they conquer them in 2019? Now it would seem they lack the quality up front to beat a side like Dublin.

Dublin now look nearly a guarantee to become the first team to win five All-Irelands in a row. Jim Gavin has continued to strengthen his squad year on year and added a new gem each year – Brian Howard in 2018.

In relation to anyone being able to stop them, Tyrone look like they may lack the quality forwards needed to beat them.

Mayo showed in the past two years that going man to man and really going for the game is the best way possible to have a chance of beating them, whether this Mayo team can go to the well again remains to be seen.

Galway have the best forwards to go toe to toe with Dublin but will need to change tact slightly in their approach from 2018. Monaghan are in a similar boat to Tyrone and may lack forwards when Conor McManus is tied up.

Kerry have now won five minor titles in a row and will challenge in years to come but 2019 may be too soon.

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About the author:

Sean Murphy

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