Stephen O'Neill was the star of the show as Tyrone defeated Dublin 1-18 to 1-16 in a thrilling NFL opener to mark the beginning of the GAA's 125th anniversary celebrations at Croke Park last Saturday night. O'Neill, who only returned to the Red Hand panel in the build-up to the All-Ireland final last September, kicked eight stunning points with a performance as exciting as the huge fireworks show after the game. "Stephen O'Neill was sublime all night. We had a few trump cards and they did the business when it was required," said Tyrone boss Mickey Harte at the post-match briefing. "It was a real bonus to have him, not just for Tyrone but look what the public would have missed there tonight if we didn't have a player of that quality on display. "He's is just in the top bracket of Gaelic players that have ever played this game and obviously we are delighted to have him because if you can get enough ball into Stephen O'Neill you are likely to get quite a lot of scores. "And when you get a lot of scores, you win more games than you lose. That's a real bonus." Dublin were caught by three late Tyrone points in a pulsating game, and new manager Pat Gilroy was left to rue their lack of a killer instinct in front of goal. "Tyrone's percentage of scores was incredible - they got eight out of nine in the second half, we got 10 out of 22 so that tells a tale for us," said Gilroy. "Eight out of nine is an incredible score. That's why they're All-Ireland champions. "As I said before we had been working on them in training so they are actually quite used to them. I think the game flowed very well because of the rules. "You would like to see them consistently applied all the time but it is hard. I think the referee did very well; it was a good fair match." Ageless midfielder Ciaran Whelan received special praise from Gilroy afterwards. "He put in a great performance, he is the type of player you want in your team for the full 70 minutes and I think wherever he plays you feel more confident with him. It was great to see him out there tonight," added Gilroy. Defender Barry Cahill also recognized that Dublin need to be more cutting in front of goal. "When we got back level we seemed to have the momentum there, but we just fell away for the last couple of minutes and they were just a bit more clinical," said Cahill.
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