Gilroy confident Dublin can shackle Tyrone scoring threat
THE case for Dublin's defence appears to be closing, so much so that the focus is moving up the field.
Bernard Brogan might be the marquee name in blue, but where once the leaky backline was Pat Gilroy's problem -- he is now more concerned with scores ahead of this evening's showdown with Tyrone.
Dublin haven't shipped a big score in championship football since their five-goal defeat to Meath last year and with defences on top this year -- with Mayo and Donegal leading the way -- the men from the capital are hoping their work ethic and solidity can see them through.
Dublin are nothing if not solid these days. Wexford rattled them, exposed their frailties and outfought them in large parts of the Leinster final, but only scored 1-12 against the off-colour boys in blue.
Tonight, it's another date with their old friends Tyrone. The Red Hands' profligacy was sighted as their downfall last season, but many put the succession of misses down to Dublin's pressure. In the words of Ryan McMenamin: "They tackled like f***." Tyrone only kicked 13 points, six of which were from frees.
Sean Cavanagh and Co were hustled and harried into shooting from angles outside their comfort zone and Gilroy wants a repeat.
"If we apply hard pressure it will make it difficult for anyone to score against us," he said yesterday. "We've been keeping scoring to a very low level so far in the championship and if that continues against Tyrone, I think we have a very good chance."
In the 12 months since the Meath goal-rush, the Dubs have been miserly in open play -- it was fouls that cost them against Cork in last year's semi-final. The system the management team put in place went into meltdown against the Royals, but, after conceding 1-5 from play against Tipperary in the following qualifying match, they got back on the road.
Since then, the mechanics have shifted into place and the full-back line have limited their starting direct opponents to just 1-12 from play in seven championship matches.
The 1-15 they conceded to Cork was the biggest they shipped in total, and generally any team that clears the 17-point mark against Dublin in the All-Ireland series gets their way.
No one has come close this season, but Tyrone are a step up. If Dublin can keep them to 0-13 again, the battle will be half won.
The performance of Dublin's new-look full-back line has been highlighted, in particular Rory O'Carroll's assured displays in the No 3 jersey.
But one of his predecessors believes it is the work out the field that is preventing the big scores, meaning the game has changed for the full-back line.
"Dublin are quite defensive-minded. With all of the forwards dropping back and everyone defending, that helps the full-back line," said 1993 All Star Dermot Deasy.
"If you have that many people between you and the ball, it blocks up any space and means attackers can't knock in a nice, quick ball. That certainly helps.
"You're not as exposed as you used to be. The one thing a full or corner-back hates is loads of room for ball to be popped into, you can be made look very ordinary."
The hammering meted out by Tyrone in 2008 has been referenced this week, but the personnel has changed utterly with Bryan Cullen the only surviving member of the back division -- and he's playing at half-forward.
Dublin are a different animal now, and if their attack can match their defence they should be well on track to reach the semi-final, as long as the old habits have been truly put to bed.