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Dublin: 13 °C Wednesday 23 October, 2019

The big talking points ahead of Sunday’s clash between Dublin and Tyrone

Can Tyrone stop Dublin’s four-in-a-row bid?

 1. Dublin chasing history

DUBLIN ARE BIDDING to join exclusive company on Sunday by becoming just the third county to achieve the All-Ireland SFC four-in-a-row.

Paul Mannion, Ciaran Kilkenny, John Small, Paddy Andrews and Brian Fenton celebrate with The Sam Maguire

Kerry have done it twice, stringing four titles together between 1929-32 and 1978-81, while Wexford managed the feat in the 1910s. 

It would be remarkable for Dublin to achieve the feat in the modern game. Before Dublin’s recent dominance began in this decade, Kerry in 2006-07 were the only team to retain the All-Ireland since Cork did so in 1989-90.

And if they do manage to beat Tyrone in the final, then talk of the ‘Drive for Five’ will begin in earnest.

Eoghan O'Gara and Tiernan McCann

2. How much have Tyrone learned from 2017?

Tyrone were tipped to beat Dublin in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final by plenty of pundits who felt their defensive system and aggression could cause Jim Gavin’s side serious issues. 

Tyrone’s bite, work-rate and intensity were way off where they needed to be in that game they allowed Dublin play the contest on their terms. With Ciaran Kilkenny acting as point-guard, the champions carefully probed from left to right, before cutting through the Tyrone defence once they created an opening. 

Tyrone’s semi-final win over Monaghan indicates they have put more stock in defending the wide channels – an area where Dublin ran them ragged 12 months ago. 

Mickey Harte is an astute tactician and will look to spring a surprise or two, but Tyrone must ensure they carry a goal-scoring threat up front if they’re to threaten the champions. 

Brian Fenton and Ciaran Kilkenny with Conor Meyler

3. Influence of Kilkenny and Fenton

When Dublin made their breakthrough All-Ireland win in 2011, Paul Flynn, Diarmuid Connolly and Bernard Brogan were the heartbeats of that team. Now, Connolly is no longer part of the set-up while injuries have reduced the roles of Flynn and Brogan.

Ciaran Kilkenny and Brian Fenton have since assumed the leadership roles. Kilkenny is vastly experienced at just 25 while Fenton is the same age and has never lost a championship game. 

Kilkenny dictates the tempo of the game in his point-guard role and regularly clocks over 40 possessions in 70 minutes. Fenton has been consistently one of Dublin’s top three players for most games this summer and has added a real scoring threat to his repertoire this season.

Stephen Cluxton, James McCarthy and Jack McCaffrey are all vital cogs in the Dublin machine but the Kilkenny-Fenton axis in the middle third is what makes them tick. 

Con O'Callaghan scores his sides opening goal

4. Will it be competitive?

The Dubs are priced at around 1/7 with most bookmakers this weekend and there’s a real possibility that they could blow Tyrone out of the water once again at Croke Park. 

But looking back to Dublin’s last championship defeat – to Donegal in 2014 – they missed an early goal chance that could have put them out of sight. Instead, Donegal grew in confidence and eventually scored a couple of killer goals that set them on the path to victory.

Con O’Callaghan’s early goal last year killed any early Tyrone momentum and it’s imperative Red Hand don’t concede an early goal on Sunday. If they can keep things tight at the back for the opening half, we should get a competitive game at the very least.

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5. Strength of Tyrone’s bench

While Tyrone’s bench didn’t have much of an impact the last day out against Monaghan, they had been making important contributions up to that point.

Harte’s replacements made a significant impact in their 1-14 to 0-14 defeat to Dublin in Omagh, with Harry Loughran, Mark Bradley and Kieran McGeary contributing four points between them. 

Ronan O’Neill and Lee Brennan – if he doesn’t start – are also serious attacking options for Harte to call upon. If Tyrone are within striking distance after 50/55 minutes, their bench press could make for an enthralling final quarter.

Dublin and Tyrone meet in the All-Ireland senior football final at 3.30pm on Sunday. Specsavers are proud sponsors of Hawk-Eye at Croke Park. To make sure you don’t miss a point, book an appointment online today at specsavers.ie

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