Dooher identifies embarassing League defeat as turning point for Tyrone
By John Harrington
It says something about the character of both the Tyrone players and their management that a humiliating experience made them stronger rather than weaker.
When Brian Dooher talks now about the 6-15 to 1-14 hammering they suffered at the hands of Kerry in the League back in June, the painful memory of it all is still etched on his face.
But had they not gone through that mortification, it’s very unlikely they would be preparing for Saturday’s All-Ireland Final against Mayo.
Conceding all those goals against Kerry made everyone in the Tyrone camp ask themselves some very hard questions.
And the answers they ultimately found were what enabled them to turn the tables on the Kingdom when the two teams met again in the All-Ireland semi-final. From pain, came glory.
“It was low to say the least,” recalls Tyrone joint-manager Dooher now of that League shellacking against Kerry.
“It was a embarrassing near enough to get six goals conceded and it could have been a lot more than six in all honesty. Half of what they missed as well would have had them up into double figures probably so it was definitely a big wake-up call for us and the players.
“I suppose it put us right back to the drawing board again but probably looking back on that now we probably weren't as bad as that, we'd a very bad day. We probably weren't as good as where we thought we were or we were somewhere in between it, that's always the way. There's always room for improvement whatever day you go out, you're never the finished article.
“You had to doubt yourself. It was a meltdown, more or less, systems failure everywhere. It wasn’t what you expect, what we expect, what the players expect. We had to look at ourselves, what the hell was going on with us?
“Players also had to look at themselves, and thankfully they did. They took the learning on board, stood up and said ‘This wasn’t right, that wasn’t right, should have done this, that, and whatever.’
“We looked at the game, analysed the game, showed the players it and started the process of putting the things we’d done wrong, right. That’s what we’ve done after every game. We’ve made mistakes. Against Kerry, they really punished us for mistakes.
“Them mistakes were made probably in earlier games only the team we were playing against didn’t punish us as well. That’s the thing about Kerry, they will punish you. It’s the same, when you get to this level, if you make mistakes, you don’t really get a second chance now.”
Tyrone have successfully transitioned to a more attack-minded brand of football under the stewardship of Dooher and Fergal Logan, but the defeat to Kerry in June was a reminder that greater expression must not come at the expense of some core values.
When Tyrone won three All-Ireland titles in the noughties, one of their defining characteristics was the suffocating intensity they brought to bear on the game when the opposition had the ball.
It was their tackling, turnovers, and interceptions that laid the groundwork for their win over Kerry, and Dooher has no doubts that generating a similar level of ferocity in the physical exchanges against Mayo will be the key to winning the All-Ireland Final.
“This team has worked hard,” says Dooher, when asked if the win over Kerry carried hall-marks of the great Tyrone team he played on in the noughties.
“It’s hard to compare teams: teams move on, different players come along, but all you want is teams to give of their best, work as hard as they can, and that’s what they did. They really upped their work-rate, their intensity, and that’s what we wanted to see.
“And we’re going to need to see a lot more of that, because that’s Mayo’s key strength, their work-rate, their intensity off the ball, particularly from the forward and midfield units never mind their defence.
“Their tackling and their intensity there and a lot of teams have experienced that this year. I know one of the keys to Mayo's success has been their work rate generally all around the field.
“That’s one of the biggest challenges we’re going to face.”
Some might consider the prospect of Tyrone winning an All-Ireland title in the very first year of Dooher and Logan’s management reign as overachievement, but Dooher himself doesn’t agree.
He’s more of a seize the day type of man, and now that they’ve earned this opportunity for themselves they’re very determined to make the most of it.
“I think anyone playing football...you don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today you know and I don't think anybody would be any different, who knows what's around the corner.
“Just live in the now, live in the moment and do the best we can with what we have as we have it.
“That's what we've done. We've taken every game at a time and try to do the best we can, come to training every night, do the best we can and see where that takes you.”