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Can Tyrone pose a challenge for the Dubs?

After a gruelling but comfortable run through the qualifiers, Tyrone set up a mammoth game against Dublin this weekend on home soil.

Ever since Tyrone hit the big time fifteen years ago, fans and pundits alike have regularly criticised every little facet of their inter-county system.

In the mid 2000s while this criticism stung Mickey Harte and many of his players, they managed to pick up three All-Ireland’s in a six year spell and all was rosy in the fields of Tyrone.

Now in the past decade Tyrone have found All-Ireland success hard to come by and haven’t been back to a final since their last triumph a decade ago.

Anytime Tyrone lose a game, the media circle their wagons and Tyrone get a proper pasting, be it in the papers the following day or on The Sunday Game from old enemies and now even former players

When they win and win well I might add, like they have done the previous two weekends, nothing much is made of it or the opposition are written off as mediocre.

Tyrone have played some good football this year, nothing like the type of football Dublin or Kerry have played this year, but good nonetheless.

So with Dublin making their first foray north of the border in 15 years for a championship match, will the red right hand of Tyrone be able to cause a massive upset?

After back to back provincial success, it was expected that Tyrone would make another charge for an Ulster title this year with Monaghan providing the first hurdle in their quest for three in a row.

In a hard fought battle in Omagh, Monaghan came out on top in a two point victory. Injury hampered Tyrone’s preparation against Monaghan with Colm Cavanagh, Tiernan McCann and Lee Brennan carrying injuries into the match and all three would have to be withdrawn early into the second half.

The reaction to Tyrone’s defeat was loud with many stating that they didn’t have a hope of getting to a semi-final, let alone the Super 8s.

Comments made by former Tyrone captain Sean Cavanagh and brother of midfielder Colm picking up the most traction, with Cavanagh being heavily criticised by Tyrone assistant Gavin Devlin for not making his feelings clear during his time on the panel.

While this mini-controversy eventually dyed down, Tyrone faced into a qualifier run that would show us if they deserved to be among the Super 8s.

First up was a trip to Navan and a Meath team that many fancied Tyrone to struggle against.

With both teams still reeling from their perspective provincial exits, Meath put it right up to Tyrone in Pairc Tailteann on a warm summers evening bringing the game to extra-time, as Tyrone stuttered to a one point victory.

Next up was a trip to Dr Cullen Park to face off against a Carlow team still buoyed by their Division 4 promotion. Although Tyrone were slow out of the blocks, they eventually kicked into a higher gear, earning a comprehensive ten point victory.

In round three Tyrone would face off against Cavan in the sweltering heat in Enniskillen. A tight game ensued with Tyrone pushing on in the latter stages to pick up another victory

In the fourth and final round of qualifiers Tyrone faced off against Cork, in what was set to be their toughest test so far.

In what many expected to be a tight game, Tyrone easily brushed aside Cork showing off the attacking prowess that Sean Cavanagh and many others think they never fully utilise.

Tyrone secured their biggest ever win over Cork, coming out on top by sixteen points and securing their place in group 2 of the Super 8s alongside Roscommon, Donegal and Dublin.

Tyrone would face off against Roscommon in the first ever Super 8s match.

As they have done all season, Tyrone used goals to keep momentum on their side and kept points ticking over. When Roscommon closed the five points and were beginning to pick up a head of steam at one point in the second half, Tyrone picked up the intensity and scored 1-5 without reply.

The first ever victory in the Super 8s was secured with Tyrone winning by eighteen points, setting up this top of the table clash with Dublin on Saturday.

While there is always a big hullabaloo made anytime Dublin leave Croke Park, some people still haven’t got it through their heads that Dublin don’t care where they play.

Dublin will happily play in whatever ground their told to and will obviously be looking forward to the chance to prove themselves in a setting like Healy Park on Saturday evening.

Another thing that is regularly forgotten when we talk about Dublin playing outside of Croke Park, is that they play league games away from home every year and have already been to Omagh this year and won, so this won’t be some new experience for any of the Dublin panel.

Tyrone supporters will try to create tense atmosphere on Saturday evening in the hopes that it may unsettle Dublin, however, this Dublin team is made of stronger stuff and have faced bigger challenges than a few thousand screaming Tyrone fans.

If Tyrone stand any chance against Dublin it will come from the momentum that they have built over the last six weeks.

The quick movement and pushing more men forward with their expansive running game has impressed many, while also maintaining that solid defensive structure.

One final aspect that make Tyrone a legitimate challenge for Dublin is the 2017 All Ireland semi-final, where Tyrone were completely outclassed in terms of skill and tactics, was perhaps one of the worst humiliations Mickey Harte has suffered as Tyrone manager.

Tyrone will look to that semi-final from last August and perhaps not see it as a means of gaining some sort of revenge, rather using it as fuel for the change of style it has given them to emerge as a more rounded team that Dublin will possibly fear more.

Come Saturday evening we will find out.

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