In 2018, under Mickey Harte, Tyrone lost an All Ireland final to Dublin. In 2019 after being in complete control for the opening three quarters of the game, they lost an All-Ireland semi-final to Kerry.
When they lined out last Saturday evening, 13 of the team that played took part in 2018 and 2019. This was a seriously good Tyrone team but also a seriously experienced Tyrone team, and under new management they tweaked a couple of things tactically from Harte’s reign but not an awful lot.
The strength and conditioning that has been a progressive journey under the huge experience and quality of Peter Donnelly was clear to see on Saturday and was at extreme peak levels!
A few standout coaching tweaks were experimented with. It was very obvious from the beginning of the national league Tyrone were determined to kick the ball a lot more, but it had mixed success.
Ironically, during their championship run this year they actually kicked the ball on average less often than during Harte’s reign. Sometimes perceptions can be deceiving.
There was certainly a more aggressive high and hard press and less of the zonal defensive system Mickey preferred. To see so many pairs matched up all over the field was seriously intense but it was the terrific physical condition of Tyrone’s players that allowed them to perform this press.
The evolution of number one Niall Morgan though was probably the biggest stand out change under the new management of Dooher and Logan but Morgan has got previous in this department and under Harte was a regular plus one out the field. In fact scoring a crucial score from play in a national league game away to Roscommon in 2019. Kick-out strategy though had certainly changed and the fact Tyrone now had multiple options physically to hit in Kilpatrick, McKenna, Mc Shane, Donnelly, Kennedy, all helped and was very apparent in the second goal.
When coaching your team, it’s obviously important to consider a couple of key coaching points. When trying to implement a kick out strategy, you have to consider what the opposition will do, the length and accuracy of your goalkeeper and what your goalkeepers strengths are. Is it the placement of the restart, the height or the pace?
Spend time working on outfield players providing options with some lateral movement, decoy runs, possibly a basketball type screen on an opponent, well before the goalkeeper is actually on the verge of kicking, something which is going to help find that little yard of space which is crucial to the accomplishment of the restart.
Most importantly, make sure to develop the restart into an offensive move post kick, a lot of teams when coaching just take the kick out and stop. It’s important to work on the next phase of play and not just stop after gaining possession.
I find this part of our game absolutely fascinating when I watch the top teams clash. It is only recently that this area of the game is starting to get the proper analysis and recognition it deserves.
Teams are now looking to create goal scoring chances from kick-outs like Tyrone did on Saturday. Teams are looking to retain possession at critical game management moments. Furthermore the opposition are looking to decode or disrupt the kick out with high and hard zonal presses. There is more aggressive man-to-man combat and some teams are dropping off on occasion in open play to negate the influence of ball winners around the middle or to deploy a middle third press. These are just some of the restart strategies being employed in Gaelic Football currently.
I also feel when coaching a team, it’s vitally important for a team to be able to adapt and change their playing style during a game, particularly depending on how the opposition team set-up against you or what particularly environmental changes arise and in an open environment like Gaelic Football that is even more important.
A team who are coached to play only possession football definitely won’t be able to shift automatically to a direct style during a game. They won’t be able to play penetrating football when needed and players will hesitate on taking those high risk bouts of play that’s really needed and a prime example of that existed on Saturday night when the cross field pass from Meyler to McShane ended with McShane flicking the ball to the net. It wasn’t the only example of the high risk play from Tyrone. An example of that was when Niall Morgan burst out from goals in the first half to sweep a ball and solo aggressively towards the middle third before delivering a piercing delivery inside which dropped to McCurry which led to a superb soccer style finish which was only denied by a brilliant save from Hennelly.
There needs to be consistent coaching regularly in training in order for players to become accustomed to different and various style of playing.
Of course having good players and smart players can help too, Tyrone have extremely smart footballers all over the field, devoid of egos. Those playing at 2, 3, 4 are equally as comfortably popping up at 13, 14 and 15. Also Tyrone’s ability to change their style of play during a game or at half time did reap rewards this year. A more direct approach for a lot of teams may pay off, for me this is called excellent game management by teams. For it to work teams might have to have a signal or a call can trigger these penetrating moments. Could Mayo have benefited from being more direct and gambling more?
Don’t get confused though with a direct approach being solely about “lumping it into the big man”. Instead it should be a more penetrative style of attack with an injection of pace and substance to the attacks either through the hands by running the ball or by measured kick passing of the ball.