Sports

Red Hands Ready To Down The Dubs

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

THEY don't come much bigger than this one, and Sunday's All-Ireland Football Championship semi-final between Tyrone and Dublin is set to ignite the summer.

The Dubs, going for a third straight title, face their first major challenge of the season, and there's serious concern in the capital that the Red Hands could stage a Croke Park ambush.

Neither team has been seriously tested as they coasted through largely uncompetitive provincial championships before Tyrone demolished Armagh by 18 points in the quarter-final, and Dublin had ten points to spare over Monaghan.

A huge crowd will flock to GAA Headquarters to witness an intriguing tactical battle and find out whether Mickey Harte can find a way to outwit his counterpart Jim Gavin.

Many key factors will come into play as a fascinating contest unfolds.

The famed kick-out strategy of goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton will be one of them, and it will be interesting to see whether Tyrone opt to press up on the Dublin re-start from the outset.

The effectiveness of Tyrone's defensive system, with concerns remaining over the fitness of sweeper Colm Cavanagh, will be central to the Ulster champions' plan to curtain a free-scoring attacking unit.

And it remains to be seen whether the Red Hands can maintain their impressive scoring rate against an uncompromising Dublin defence.

All those questions will be answered on Sunday afternoon at Croke Park, when the eyes of the GAA world will be fixed upon this clash of giants.

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte has been forensically examining the Dublin squad and its strengths and weakness, looking for the slightest opportunity to exploit and profit.

"Dublin have got a lot of quality players in their team and on the bench," he said.

"So we have to study as much as we can about what the strengths of those players are, and try and negate that, and actually try and think about how do we become better at what we do.

"So it's a two-way process. If we spend all our time thinking about Dublin and what we need to do, then we'll not be coming up with any particular answer that will be useful to us.

"So really, our focus, as it has been all year, has been on improving what we can offer both individually and collectively as a team, and I think we have done that this year.

"We have worked hard at doing what we do well, playing to the strengths that we have in our band of players.

"Every game we played, we looked at the opposition, we looked at what we needed to be very mindful of with regard to them, and this is not different, other than it is probably more complex, in that Dublin do provide more problems to any team than anybody else that we have played in the last eight or nine years.

"We have to deal with that in a championship context. Yes, the league is fine. We have played them in the league, different time of year, different competition, probably Dublin have more opportunity to experiment with their squad than we would have had. We probably would have had a fuller hand out any time we were playing them than they had.

"So all these factors must be considered in the round when we consider what we have to do on Sunday."

Tyrone haven't been involved in an All-Ireland final since 2008, but on Sunday, the atmosphere in a sold-out Croke Park will be no different to the showpiece occasion, with both sets of fans in full voice all around the iconic stadium.

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