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Dublin: 6 °C Saturday 29 February, 2020
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Analysis: Tyrone's incredible tackling, Harte's bench power play and why they conceded the kick-outs

The42′s columnist Sean Murphy takes a closer look at the Red Hand’s win over Donegal in Ballybofey.

THIS WAS DEFINITELY a game of two halves.

With what started as a very cagey and nervous affair, ended in a dominant Tyrone second-half performance where they scored 2-11 to ensure their passage to the All Ireland semi-finals and a rematch with Monaghan.

Niall Sludden celebrates his side scoring a late goal Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Tyrone’s intensity and fitness

One area that Tyrone have upped massively since their defeat to Monaghan in the Ulster championship was their tackling and intensity levels.

Tyrone put together 34 tackles against Monaghan in the Ulster opener. Against Dublin they put 44 tackles on the board and yesterday in Donegal’s home ground they massed a total of 57 tackles. That is the highest that I have seen from any team in this year’s championship.

Leo McLoone and Padraig Hampsey Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

The difference in Tyrone’s tackling now and in May is their ability to get not only a second man helping to box up the opposition – something they were not doing previously but they are now starting to get a third man in at times.

This is part and parcel of Tyrone’s game plan: two men closing a man in, turning him over and breaking. Their intensity level has also risen in each game. It was 48 against Monaghan, 74 versus Dublin and yesterday it reached 81. Tyrone’s tackling, especially in the final quarter, was at times ferocious, they were hunting their prey and were not going to relent for one moment.

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Donegal were nowhere near Tyrone’s level in this regard contributing 35 tackles and an intensity level of 53.

Along with Mickey Harte, credit must go to Tyrone’s strength and conditioning coach Peter Donnelly for his work. The fitness and conditioning levels of this Tyrone team are of the highest level possible.

This is shown by their ability to finish games so strongly continuing to get up and down the pitch fluently. They dismantled Donegal in the final 20 minutes, outscoring them by 2-7 to 0-2 in this period. It was also displayed in the performance they put up against Dublin late on.

Tyrone subs

Yet again, the Tyrone subs came up trumps for Mickey Harte’s men with a return of 2-5 from the bench.

Harry Loughran celebrates scoring a goal with Lee Brennan Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

In the second half, Tyrone changed tact and went more direct in their attack. They ran at the Donegal defence in greater numbers and were not allowing themselves to get smothered up by the blanket like they had in the first half.

Mattie Donnelly had it off to a fine art by the end of the game, running at angles taking or giving a quick pop pass or drawing a free or taking a shot on.

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Lee Brennan was the other man that epitomised this, causing the Donegal backs nightmares. He scored four points in total, one from a placed kick and three from play.

Kieran McGeary who also had a great game driving forward, while Harry Loughran contributed a goal at a crucial time.

And Declan McLure put the icing on the cake in the 67th minute.

The stand-off

Tyrone started this game brightly going three points clear early on however this game then became very edgy and also very safe. Both teams were very concerned about protecting their “D” area than going for the game.

Michael Murphy celebrates a score in front of Cathal McShane Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Donegal went away from their normal game plan yesterday and instead they decided to bring everyone back when Tyrone had the ball, they had not done this before yesterday.

This is an extremely tiring game to play with massive energy and fitness levels needed in reserve to continue to keep going over the 70 minutes. It was shown late on that they did not have the levels required to do this.

Tyrone will probably have to play a similar game when they come up against Monaghan who showed on Saturday evening against Monaghan that they are hard to play against when they get a lead on you, they got out of the traps early and put Galway on the back foot.

Kick-outs

Probably the biggest area in the game of Gaelic football now is definitely the kick-out strategy of teams and yesterday was no different, both teams adopted different approaches.

Tyrone decided to allow Shaun Patton go short within the Donegal 45 metre area and dropped their forwards out. From the 45 metre line out becoming their tackling engagement line where they continued to press up from there and get their pressure on Declan Bonner’s men.

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This may have to be the tactic that they go with against Monaghan as Rory Beggan again showed on Saturday that even when Galway pressed his kick-outs, he put the ball in the eye of the needle.

Donegal however opted to go with a different approach and decided to press up on Niall Morgans kick-outs throughout. This did pay dividends for the Donegal outfit as they got a goal directly from this by everybody being pushed up.

Niall Morgan tried a short kick-out and Ryan McHugh intercepted and played a quick pass to Michael Murphy who was at hand to bury the ball to the net.

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Niall Morgan was not all to blame for that short kick-out however, Padraig Hampsey did not attack this ball and should have had the ball collected by the time Ryan McHugh intercepted.

Declan Bonner’s men returned with 24% of the Tyrone kick-out.

Whats next?

For Donegal, its the end of 2018. They will be happy with their Ulster title. They did however get relegated to Division 2. The key for Declan Bonner is to get promotion back to the top division in the spring. The return of Patrick McBrearty will be a massive addition.

Tyrone now face Monaghan in an all-Ulster semi-final. They will be very happy to get the chance of a rematch with Malachy O Rourke’s men. They are on a great run of momentum at the moment and will be hard stopped by any side.

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About the author:

Sean Murphy

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