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Dublin: 3°C Thursday 4 March 2021

Tyrone v Dublin: An epic rivalry resumes

As all eyes turn to Croker on Saturday evening, we look back at the recent history of one of the GAA’s most volatile rivalries.

The infamous 'Battle of Omagh' in 2006.
The infamous 'Battle of Omagh' in 2006.
Image: ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

THIS SATURDAY WILL see the renewal of one of GAA’s most explosive rivalries in recent memory. Dublin will once again battle Tyrone at headquarters, and both sides will be chomping at the bit.

Having avoided a meeting with Kerry until a potential final, both sides will now see a manageable path to a shot at Sam in September. However, that is not to say that they will be taking each other lightly. They have had shaky campaigns to date and both sides will have been preparing for a truly mammoth encounter.

This famous rivalry sparked back to life in thrilling fashion in 2005. Drawn together in an All Ireland quarter-final, the two sides clashed in a game that will live long into the memory of all in attendance.

Tyrone, who had claimed Sam two years previously, trailed by five at the break. However, this game is not remembered for anything that happened in the first half.

When GAA supporters are asked to come up with their all-time favourite wonder goals, Owen Mulligan’s sensational second-half effort will always be hovering around the top of the pile. It dragged Tyrone back into the game and would have been enough to inspire them to victory, had it not been for a ‘Mossy’ Quinn injury-time free which ensured the sides would do it all again the following week.

The replay was a straightforward encounter and, despite a spirited second-half comeback from the young Dubs, Tyrone went through comfortably. Tyrone used the victory as a spring board to win their second All Ireland that September.

Those battles in 2005 would lead to an obsession in Dublin. Reaching the level of Tyrone and being considered real championship contenders was the only priority.

The following spring Dublin travelled to Omagh for a 2006 National League game. They went to make a point. Dublin wanted to show that they could compete with the best — mentally, physically, and on the scoreboard.

The Dubs proved they could compete, squeezing out a narrow victory.  But ‘the Battle of Omagh’ will always be remembered for a series of unseemly incidents that spoiled the game as a contest. Both teams were punished with several suspensions to key players that would drag on into the summer.

The sides would have to wait until 2008 for their next championship battle. Again, it would be an All-Ireland quarter-final and again (worryingly for Dublin this Saturday) the boys in blue went in as Leinster champions and favourites, having had a month’s break and relaxation. Tyrone on the other hand, would bide their time and build momentum coming through the back door.

The game was more of a massacre than a contest. Dublin were put to the sword on a scoreline of 3-14 to 1-08. The result saw the end of ‘Pillar’s’ reign and a dark cloud of pessimism descend upon the city.

Dublin’s mini resurgence in last year’s championship saw them face their old rivals once again. This time it was Dublin that would come out on top and advance to what would ultimately prove to be a heartbreaking semi-final defeat to the Rebels. Eoghan O’Gara’s goal with five minutes remaining may have been missed by the cameraman but it was enough to send Dublin through. The result also cast doubts over Tyrone with many critics saying they had passed their peak.

Victory for Tyrone on Saturday would go a long way to silencing those critics. Qualifier victories over Longford, Armagh and Roscommon have given Tyrone serious momentum and they will head into Saturday full steam ahead. History has proven that this team know how to beat Dublin on the biggest stage and they won’t doubt that they can to do it again.

Dublin will need to be wary. In 2008, Tyrone went in on a roll and came out all guns blazing while the Dubs never got going. There are lessons to be learned from that day. They will need to stifle Tyrone early on and establish a foothold in the game.

Whatever happens, it will be tense and tight from the start. And who knows, for one of these teams it might just be their launch pad to success this September.

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About the author:

Mark Kernan

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