Hard road will stand to Dublin -- Moran
THEY MAY have been less than convincing in their return to Leinster's summit, but having to tough it out in their provincial campaign could yet stand to Dublin in their massive rematch with Tyrone this weekend.
And former Dublin star Colin Moran also believes that the younger legs of Pat Gilroy's team should help them in another fascinating quarter-final between two of the heavyweights of modern football.
The key distinction, of course, is that Tyrone have amassed three All-Ireland titles in the past decade, while Dublin haven't been able to reach a final since beating the Red Hands in the 1995 decider. Recent Dublin teams have faltered far too often in the quarter-finals, and this is a make-or-break game for the new side that Gilroy and his management team have built.
It was Tyrone who did it for Gilroy's predecessor at this stage in 2008, when Paul Caffrey stepped down after one of the most humiliating defeats shipped by the Dubs since the late seventies.
"This is is a huge game for Dublin," Moran says. "They didn't really perform to their best despite winning Leinster and there is still a lot of questions hanging about, so winning this, especially beating Tyrone, would be a huge marker in this team's development."
He is confident that the men from the capital are up for the fight. "I really think we are going to see an intensity from Dublin, especially around the middle of the park, that we haven't really seen from them yet this year," Moran says.
"The sort of intensity they showed when beating Tyrone last year, they're going to have to reproduce that now.
"And I think they will because they have the younger legs and a lot of injuries have cleared up now."
Moran also believes that the growing trend of managers holding on to some key players to play as ace cards down the home stretch will be continued by both bosses.
"It will nearly be more interesting to see who's picked on the bench for each side than who starts," Moran observes.
Four times these two have met in All-Ireland quarter-finals in the past decade and while it took Dublin until last year to finally put one over on the Red Hands, that was a tight game.
Tyrone come seeking revenge with an ageing team, some of whom will view this as a potential swansong.
Many believe Tyrone are on the slide after a superlative decade, but Moran fears they are actually a more dangerous proposition now, despite losing out in Ulster for the first time in three seasons.
"They looked very impressive in Ulster last year but had come through it very easily and were highly fancied coming in against Dublin, who no one really gave a chance," he recalls.
"They wasted numerous chances -- I think they had 17 wides -- and we hit them close to the end with a sucker-punch goal, from Eoghan O'Gara.
"This year, Tyrone are coming from a different position, they've built up a lot of momentum through the back door.
"It is a bit like 2008 in many ways," he adds, pointing out that Dublin were also provincial champions and coming off a lengthy lay-off (four weeks).
Three years ago, Tyrone were also coming in under the radar after being dispatched by Down in an Ulster quarter-final.
Their back-door run had given little indication of what was to come: they beat Louth and Westmeath and then had just a point to spare against Mayo.
Yet they wheeled away from Croke Park, leaving a broken Dublin team, including Moran, in their wake, after scoring 3-13 from play, and they went on to win 'Sam'.
Alan Brogan's injury was a key factor in that game, as he went off after just six minutes. He had scored 2-11 in their three previous games and was Dublin's attacking fulcrum.
He was replaced by his younger brother Bernard, who gave some indication of his future potential and has developed into such a star.
And yet Moran believes Alan Brogan will play another key role this time.
"Losing Alan in 2008 was a terrible blow, but he is an even better player now. His mobility out around the half-forward line is incredible, he really opens up defences for us and the amount of work he does off the ball is remarkable."
So will this be the barnstormer that everyone is hoping for?
"Oh definitely!" Moran enthuses.
"You just know, after things like 2005 and 2008 and last year, that the chance of playing Dublin again, in Croke Park, will have been a huge incentive for Tyrone in recent weeks.
"They have always raised their game for big days in Croke Park but especially against us, so this is going to be another thriller again, no doubt."