Saturday 19 January 2019

Tyrone will pose new questions of Dublin's defence

Tyrone's Mark Bradley
Tyrone's Mark Bradley

There will be times on Sunday when Philly McMahon, Jonny Cooper and Mick Fitzsimons have only Mark Bradley for company in Dublin's half of the pitch.

The temptation to push on will be acute, particularly for McMahon and especially when Dublin hit the resistance of Tyrone's bolted-down defence.

But even a cursory glance at Tyrone's games this year shows how they have become a sort of Venus Fly Trap, luring in numbers before snapping.

In their four Championship games this year, Tyrone have had 12, 12, 11 and 10 different scorers, respectively.

Two of their top three scorers from play this summer; David Mulgrew and Ronan O'Neill, didn't even start their last match against Armagh.


The trouble therefore, with defending against Tyrone is figuring out which threat is coming next and where it will come from.

"If you are going out the pitch, and there are runners coming at you, there are two ways of doing it. You get a man each or you wait for a man to come to you," explains McMahon, who has seen most forms of attack in his near decade as an inter-county defender.

"I think the problem with that would be that you get confused. Who is running at you, who is marking you, who is taking who, are there men running between men?"

Tyrone's near evacuation of their opponents' half when not in possession of the ball also changes the dynamic for a defender of McMahon's attacking tendencies.

"Normally, when I am attacking, I have to drag a man with me but now I don't," he points out.

"Monaghan would have similar defensive structures, although they probably didn't go as defensive as we would have thought," McMahon adds.

"Tyrone would be a little bit more defensive than them, they lock it down.

"It is nothing that we haven't come up against before, tactically but we know the intensity they bring is another notch above the rest of the northern teams."

Whatever way Tyrone play, McMahon reckons he has encountered it before.

"Once you go man-on-man for a certain period of time in your career, you are comfortable in any defensive positions," he states.

"We've always said that we're strong as a defensive structure, not just a back six."

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