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Brace yourselves for a thunderous All-Ireland football semi-final between Dublin and Tyrone

Both counties are on the same side of the championship draw – and flexed their muscles with comprehensive provincial final wins on Sunday.

Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

THERE’S PLENTY OF football to be played before 27 August but, as things stand, the scene is set for a mouthwatering All-Ireland semi-final between Dublin and Tyrone.

In their respective provincial semi-finals yesterday, two of the leading contenders for Sam Maguire glory flexed their muscles.

And with the draw as it is, the Leinster and Ulster heavyweights are on a Croke Park collision course next month.

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

What a prospect that would be, Dublin with Diarmuid Connolly available again after a 12-week ban to add further spice to the mix.

And if there’s one county out there capable of ‘poking the bear’ (© Pat Spillane), it’s Tyrone.

All of that is based on the assumption, of course, that Connolly will reclaim a starting place.

And on the evidence we’ve seen from Dublin in their last two outings, that’s no guarantee.

Connolly faces a battle to force his way back into the starting line-up and even players who’d walk onto the vast majority of other inter-county teams in the country, Bernard Brogan and Kevin McManamon, had to be content with bench roles against Kildare yesterday.

That’s before we even mention the emergence of Con O’Callaghan, who scored six of his 12 points from play.

Diarmuid Connolly speaks to linesman Ciaran Branagan Diarmuid Connolly would be available again after suspension if Dublin progress to an All-Ireland semi-final. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Brogan came on for black-carded Dean Rock and picked off five points from play in an imperious display.

There’s life in the old dog yet, evidently, and Brogan’s performance has provided Jim Gavin with a welcome headache ahead of the All-Ireland quarter-finals.

With Armagh, Down or Monaghan to provide their opposition at the next hurdle, it’s odds-on that Dublin will advance.

And with Tyrone due to play Armagh, Kildare or Monaghan, you’d have to fancy the Red Hands to fulfil their half of the bargain, too.

Tyrone were stung by Mayo in last year’s All-Ireland quarter-final and won’t want to make the same mistake twice when they hit Croke Park.

Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

Win there, and with that 70-plus minutes under their belts at GAA HQ, and they’ll provide Dublin with massive opposition.

Tyrone will feel confident of putting the clamps on Dublin’s red-hot attack but there’s a new attacking dimension to Mickey Harte’s men this season.

That’s not to suggest that they weren’t scoring last summer because they were, and quite heavily for a spell.

Tyrone opened up with 3-14 against Derry before adding 0-16 and 5-18 (replay) against Cavan.

13 points was enough to secure the Ulster final against Donegal but 0-12 wasn’t when they lost to Mayo.

An average of 19.4 points is decent shooting across the course of a season but when that drops to 12.5 in an Ulster final and All-Ireland quarter-final, it’s an obvious area for concern.

In the 2017 Ulster championship, Tyrone landed 22 points against Derry and their 1-21 haul in the Donegal game was up considerably from last year’s meeting with their rivals.

Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

2-17 in Sunday’s win over Down is good shooting too and Tyrone’s average scoring rate across the three matches was 23 points.

On average, they’re conceding under 14 points per game too and that’s another reason to be positive.

Dublin averaged almost 30 points per game in Leinster, a figure skewed by the massive 4-29 posted against Westmeath.

They conceded just 0-17 over the course of the Carlow and Westmeath games but Kildare’s 1-17 haul on Sunday will have heartened Tyrone, and the other would-be All-Ireland contenders.

Of course, all of the above is based on the premise that Dublin and Tyrone come through their respective quarter-finals.

On what we saw from both on Sunday, however, it’s difficult to imagine anything other than victories in their next matches.

In the 2000s, Tyrone’s rivalry with Kerry defined them. Now, and as they look set to emerge as consistent force again, it could boil down to their clashes with Dublin.

Both teams are blessed with depth in their squads. Have a look at this list of players who were unavailable or didn’t start for Dublin on Sunday against Kildare: Jonny Cooper, Michael Darragh MacAuley, Eoghan O’Gara, Diarmuid Connolly, Cormac Costello, Paul Flynn, Conor McHugh, Brogan and McManamon.

Bernard Brogan celebrates after the game Bernard Brogan scored five points off the bench for Dublin against Kildare. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

It’s a frightening prospect for the rest but similarly, Tyrone had Ronan O’Neill coming off the bench to score two classy goals, while Declan McClure, Darren McCurry, Cathal McShane, Conor Meyler and Lee Brennan were also introduced.

Kerry will be happy that they’re on the other side of the draw but they could have Roscommon and Mayo to contend with, so nothing’s easy there.

Still, with Dublin and Tyrone eyeing each other up, Kerry can go about their business with less glare, and that will suit them just fine.

Right now, it’s difficult to envisage a team other than Dublin, Tyrone or Kerry lifting Sam, and the winners of the Dublin-Tyrone clash (again, if it happens) would have to be considered favourites.

It’s set up for something special. Let’s hope it delivers.

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