The immediate reaction would be to say it was too defensive, but there was more to it. Yesterday at Croke Park, there was a distinct lack of quality, with little energy and little bite for the most part.
Neither team will be pleased with their shooting quality and some of the poor decision-making. The ball didn’t stay in the air as long as it should have. The match was decided when Rory Beggan came up the field late and ballooned the ball into the air.
We had high expectations given the caliber of both clubs. Tyrone has a lot to work on in the next three weeks as Mickey Harte tries to figure out how to overcome Dublin, which appears to be difficult. Yesterday, Tyrone was a deserving winner. They were marginally better, but they would not have been particularly pleased with what they produced in the end. However, they still have an All-Ireland final to look forward to, which may be because there are so few viable options outside of Dublin.
At times yesterday, I was watching rugby league, where one team attacks while the other defends, and vice versa. When both teams yield kick-outs, this is what usually happens. Monaghan didn’t go full-court press until the 68th minute of the game, and it was too late by then.
When teams concede kick-outs, they lose momentum in games, making it more difficult for fans to become involved. In sports, there’s a lot of cynicism, with players being hurt to prevent the opposition from building up steam.
Monaghan’s fans would have been happy to go in level at halftime. They’ll be kicking themselves for a few things that didn’t go their way, but yesterday was the third time this summer they’ve been in a winning position and failed to take advantage, with games against Fermanagh and then Kerry coming to mind.
For a squad with a strong year, its most valuable asset — solid decision-making — failed them when it was most required. Amid the second half, Monaghan had a purple spell, and Conor McManus put them ahead. They didn’t make enough of it, though, and Niall Sludden’s goal proved crucial.
Malachy O’Rourke is a cautious manager who wasn’t pleased with Anthony Nolan’s performance as the match referee. He never let the game flow for me and even facilitated a terrible game. The free count was big, as it was on Saturday when Dublin beat Galway.
You would have missed Mayo over the weekend. They’ll match up physically and man for a man when they arrive in town to take on Dublin or anybody, and it’s always a thrill.
Tyrone will bring something to the table against Dublin, but it doesn’t take a brain to figure out that they’ll put 14 or 15 men behind the ball to delay Jim Gavin’s squad and keep them in the game as long as possible.
Colm Cavanagh played well yesterday, but I don’t think he’ll be in that position in the final, trying to preserve the ‘D.’; Dublin has the talent to score from outside the area, which will be a major issue for Tyrone. I believe Tyrone will struggle to defeat Dublin, who has the greatest team and players, and they’re incredibly fluid.
The entire championship has been a disappointment. I was at Limerick’s hurling semi-final versus Cork two weeks ago, and you’d be frightened to go to the lavatory during the game for fear of missing something. Because there isn’t much going on at a football match, you may grab a newspaper and read it from cover to cover.
Even Dublin has done it this year, and the weekend before last, when Donegal had a four-point advantage and Tyrone on the ropes, they also attempted it. Backward movement of the players.
It’s been ingrained in the culture and is not going away anytime soon. It was groundbreaking when Jim McGuinness introduced defensive football, and winning an All-Ireland with Donegal in 2012 was one of the finest coaching successes ever. However, packing defenses is no longer creative — it has outlived its usefulness — and one of the things we rarely see in football these days is a full-back whose main task is to stay in the full-forward line.
Perhaps two referees and a limit on the number of players in each half of the field are in order? It may be tinkering, but the mentality must shift. Football is becoming increasingly difficult to watch at the moment.