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Dublin win fourth All-Ireland Football title in a row

Dublin captain Stephen Cluxton lifts the Sam Maguire Cup after victory over Tyrone in the All-Ireland SFC Final. 
Dublin captain Stephen Cluxton lifts the Sam Maguire Cup after victory over Tyrone in the All-Ireland SFC Final. 

All-Ireland Senior Football Final


By John Harrington at Croke Park

We’re watching history being made in front of our eyes by this generation of Dublin footballers.

Their claim to be the greatest team of all-time is close to being undeniable now after this, their fourth All-Ireland title in a row and sixth in eight years.

Of all of those All-Ireland Finals they’ve won in that period, this was their most decisive victory yet.

And here’s a sobering fact for their rivals - nine of Dublin’s starting XV today and another two of their subs are aged 25 or younger, so there’s every chance they haven’t even peaked as a team yet.

Tyrone gave it their all, but Dublin were simply better than them in all facets of the game – pure skill, tactical intelligence, and raw athleticism.

Players like Jack McCaffrey, Brian Fenton, and Ciaran Kilkenny in particular were just on another level, and Tyrone didn’t have the quality to match them blow for blow.

Dublin have the ability to ruthlessly bury a team with a purple patch of scoring, and this All-Ireland Final was no different.

They scored 2-4 with just a single point in reply from Tyrone between the 18th and 28th minutes, and in doing so laid the foundation for their eventual victory.

Once those two goals hit the back of the net you knew there was only going to be one winner, but up until then Tyrone were threatening to make mockery of all the pre-match predictions.

Paul Mannion drills Dublin's first-half penalty past Tyrone goalkeeper Niall Morgan. 
Paul Mannion drills Dublin's first-half penalty past Tyrone goalkeeper Niall Morgan. 

Dublin like to make a habit of starting fast and sucking the self-belief out of the opposition, but instead they found themselves on the back-foot for much of the first 20 minutes.

Tyrone hit them hard in the tackle and forced some big turnovers in dangerous parts of the field that raised huge roars from their supporters.

They also gained momentum from two unsuccessful early kick-outs from Stephen Cluxton, with Cathal McShane winning one and the second going straight over the sideline.

Tyrone were undoing a lot of their good work with poor shooting, but such was their dominance in the early exchanges that they were still managing to pull clear of Dublin.

Two classy points from Mark Bradley and Tiernan McCann had them 0-3 to 0-1 ahead by the ninth minute, with McCann’s score in particular seeming like a significant one.

He’d been given the task of man-marking Dublin’s chief danger-man Ciaran Kilkenny, which meant he was playing in the unfamiliar position of corner-back.

But by getting forward to score that point he made a statement of intent that he wasn’t going to be satisfied with simply spoiling Kilkenny.

Connor McAliskey then hit two points in quick succession, the first a free the second a fantastic long-ranger, to put Tyrone 0-5 to 0-1 ahead and suggest we had the makings of an upset on our hands.

Ciaran Kilkenny gave Dublin some much-needed momentum with a fine point from play and then the game then changed utterly in the next 10 minutes.

Niall Morgan’s resulting kick-out was intercepted by Ciaran Kilkenny and the ball was quickly moved to Paul Mannion who carried it at pace into the Tyrone square where he was upended by McCann.

Conor Lane whistled for the penalty, Mannion picked himself up, dusted himself down, and rammed the spot-kick to the roof of the net to level the scores.

All of Tyrone’s good work was undone in a flash and things quickly went from bad to worse for the Ulster county.

Morgan was now going long with his kick-outs but Tyrone were being eaten alive under the dropping ball in midfield.

It was one-way traffic now all of a sudden. Dean Rock kicked two points from play in the space of a minute to further emphasis Dublin’s nascent dominance.

A point from Cathal McShane briefly slowed Dublin’s growing momentum, but not for long.

Niall Scully fists Dublin's second goal of the match past Niall Morgan to the Tyrone net. 
Niall Scully fists Dublin's second goal of the match past Niall Morgan to the Tyrone net. 

The brilliant Jack McCaffrey clipped a fine point, and then Dublin really drove a stake through Tyrone’s heart with their second goal of the match.

Con O’Callaghan had been causing Tyrone increasing problems with his turbo-charged runs, and he cut open their defence once again when he made a bee-line for the posts.

He was felled en-route, but still managed to hand-pass the ball to the supporting Niall Scully who palmed it first time to the back of the net.

Dublin now lead by 2-5 to 0-6. There were only 28 minutes on the clock, but you already felt that this game was over.

Tyrone’s body language was now a lot different than what it had been in the first 20 minutes when they bristled with intensity.

Now they looked like a team on the back-foot both mentally as well as physically.

Dublin, in contrast were bursting out of the skins now and clipped two more points before half-time to take a 2-7 to 0-6 lead to the dressing-rooms.

Points from Connor McAliskey and Kieran McGeary gave Tyrone a fast start to the second-half, but Dublin quickly responded with a brace of their own through Brian Fenton and Brian Howard.

Most of the second-half followed a similar pattern. Whenever Tyrone managed to clip a score, Dublin simply went down the field and cancelled it out.

In this way they kept them at arm’s distance comfortably enough until the concession of a soft penalty after 66 minutes gave the game a late frisson of drama.

Philly McMahon was the culprit, wrestling Colm Cavanagh to the ground before a high, dropping ball made it as far as the goalmouth.

Peter Harte finished the penalty decisively to the bottom right-hand corner of the net to reduce the deficit to five points, 2-13 to 0-12.

When the board flashed up seven minutes of injury-time hope must have briefly surged in Tyrone chests, especially when Dublin’s John Small was red-carded in the first minute of that injury-time for hauling down Harte.

Dublin's Brian Fenton after the final whistle blows on the All-Ireland SFC Final against Tyrone. 
Dublin's Brian Fenton after the final whistle blows on the All-Ireland SFC Final against Tyrone. 

Lee Brennan converted the resulting free to briefly leave just four between the teams, but that’s as close as Tyrone would get.

Even though they were down to 14 men, it was Dublin who had the greater energy and intent in the remaining six minutes of injury-time as they out-scored Tyrone by three points to one.

Michael Darragh MacAuley had come on for Dean Rock in the 67th minute, and his fresh legs made a big difference down the home stretch.

He constantly showed for and won possession before putting Dublin on the front foot with surging runs that left Tyrone men in his wake.

Considering his impact in injury-time, it was fitting he should have the last say, fisting over a point after yet another jet-heeled charge.

This Dublin team has inked another entry into the record-books, and you get the strong feeling they’re not finished just yet.

Scorers for Dublin: Dean Rock 0-7 (3f 1 ’45), Paul Mannion 1-1, Niall Scully 1-0, Ciaran Kilkenny 0-3, Brian Fenton 0-2, Brian Howard 0-1, Kevin McManamon 0-1, Michael Darragh MacAuley 0-1, Jack McCaffrey 0-1.

Scorers for Tyrone: Peter Harte 1-1 (1-0 pen, 1f) Connor McAliskey 0-3 (1f), Lee Brennan 0-3 (3f), Cathal McShane 0-2, Mark Bradley 0-2, Tiernan McCann 0-1, Kieran McGeary 0-1, Padraig Hampsey 0-1.

DUBLIN: Stephen Cluxton; Philly McMahon, Jonny Cooper, Eoin Murchan; John Small, Cian O’Sullivan, Jack McCaffrey; Brian Fenton, James McCarthy; Niall Scully, Con O’Callaghan, Brian Howard; Paul Mannion, Ciaran Kilkenny, Dean Rock. Subs: Michael Fitzsimons for Cian O’Sullivan (27), Cormac Costello for Niall Scully (53), Kevin McManamon for Paul Mannion (58), Darren Daly for Eoin Murchan (58), Eric Lowndes for Jonny Cooper (64), Michael Darragh MacAuley for Dean Rock (67)

TYRONE: Niall Morgan; Tiernan McCann, Ronan McNamee, Padraig Hampsey; Matthew Donnelly, Michael McKernan, Rory Brennan; Colm Cavanagh, Cathal McShane; Kieran McGeary, Conor Meyler, Peter Harte; Mark Bradley, Connor McAliskey, Niall Sludden. Subs: Lee Brennan for Conor Meyler (40), Frank Burns for Niall Sludden (46), Harry Loughran for Kieran McGeary (49 black card), Richard Donnelly for Connor McAliskey (49), Declan McClure for Cathal McShane (55), Ronan O’Neill for Mark Bradley (63)

Ref: Conor Lane (Cork)

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