'It is going to be monumental' - Joe Brolly on what Tyrone have to do to beat Dublin
Joe Brolly thinks this Tyrone team can hand Dublin a first championship defeat since 2014 - but only if they attack Jim Gavin's side with a 'ferocity for 70 minutes'.
Dublin are strong favourites to advance to another All-Ireland final with their three in-a-row hopes alive, but the clash of styles promises to make for a riveting encounter in two weeks time.
Speaking on this week's episode of The Throw-In, Independent.ie's GAA podcast, Brolly explained why he thinks the game will be won or lost on how Dublin deal with Tyrone's defensive set-up.
"Tyrone's system is heavily weighted towards defence and the question is whether that highly defensive system, they are counter-attacking, which isn't as practiced or as deadly as Donegal under Jim McGuinness, but which is becoming more effective, whether that is going to be sufficient to beat a team with the overall balance of the Dubs," Brolly said.
"I think they are very close. The big issue that I can see, and it was really vivid when you watched the two games back to back, was the Monaghan blanket defence and how Dublin treated that, and the Tyrone blanket defence and how Armagh treated that, which is the same way that all four opponents that have faced Tyrone have tried to deal with it, which is to stay on the outside of it and be quite unsure of how to deal with it.
"What Dublin do differently is that they flood the blanket defence and will go man to man when they win possession. One of the big advantages of Tyrone's blanket defence is that when you win possession, you can run out with relative freedom but the Dubs don't let you do that."
Dublin haven't lost in the championship since Jim McGuinness' Donegal team produced a breathtaking display of counter-attacking football to rock Gavin's men for three goals in 2014, but the double All-Ireland champions have reinforced their defence significantly in the years since.
More importantly, says Brolly, is that Dublin have become more comfortable with breaking down a packed rearguard.
"Dublin are the best team I've seen at taking on the blanket defence and they've worked religiously at that since their Donegal shock," Brolly said.
"The very first attack against Monaghan, Dublin moved the ball to the left side of the Monaghan blanket and then three of them attacked at an angle and they laid the ball off to each other and broke through for a score. The other thing Dublin do is that they are very patient, their last score before half time they held the ball for two minutes and seven seconds."
Brolly feels that Dublin will ultimately have too much for Mickey Harte's side, but he predicts that if Tyrone's young guns produce big performances, then the Ulster champions could claim their most significant championship scalp since scuppering Kerry's three in-a-row bid in 2008.
"The big issue is whether the young Tyrone players in particular can withstand the pressure," Brolly said.
"It is going to be monumental. Before throw in, the hair will be standing on the back of their neck. It's a massive occasion for young players and it will be the first time that Tyrone will have been really, really tested with this patented system. If they can withstand that, and if they can play with ferocity for 70 minutes, then there is no way that Dublin can have the desire that they once had.
"Whilst you can have loads of pace all over the field and do all the right things, there is a point when a team that has greater desire and can stifle your attacking system can succeed. I do think that the Dubs are better placed to win the game, they've just got more all round and have a better balance. But if Tyrone can throw everything at it, they can win it."
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