Tyrone up for Dubs challenge

Tyrone boss Mickey Harte.
Tyrone boss Mickey Harte.

It’s the game the whole country is talking about as reigning All-Ireland champions Dublin go head-to-head with Ulster kingpins Tyrone at Croke Park on Sunday afternoon.

The Dubs will go in as favourites as they chase a third Sam Maguire triumph in a row but Tyrone are quietly confident they can upset the odds and reach the decider.

Manager Mickey Harte is looking forward to the battle and says that it is always special when you play the Dubs at headquarters.

“To me, it always has been a great atmosphere, when you play Dublin in Croke Park in the All-Ireland Championship. It might as well be an All-Ireland Final, because the same atmosphere is there, the same crowd is there, the same power of the Hill is there,” said Harte.

“Whether it’s a semi-final, a quarter-final, or an All-Ireland Final, I don’t think there’s a lot of difference.

“The energy that you find or get from an All-Ireland final is always present when you play the Dubs when they’re in good form – and they’re in good form this last number of years.

“The Hill will be packed with Dublin supporters and while I’m not sure they’ll have a great impact on officiating, it’s just that energy that they bring. It’s almost like they’re the 16th and 17th men, not just the 16th, but two of them.

“I remember back in 2005 when we were maybe eight points up at one stage and the Hill got behind Dublin and I’ve often described it as they almost sucked the ball over bar five times to get us back to three, until we got that other goal to take the heat off again.

“They have that power. There is an energy that comes of the crowd whenever a player or a group of players do something good.

“I don’t know how it happens, it’s almost like an orchestra. It just rises, the tempo rises, and everybody feels ‘There’s something special happening here’.

“It mightn’t be that special to look at, but there’s just an energy about it.

“They have a capacity to influence the energy of the team that they’re supporting but I don’t think they have a big influence over refereeing decisions.”

It’s a clash between two sides who have eased past any challenge put in front of them this summer to date and there is no doubt that it has all the ingredients of a classic.

While Tyrone are going to be at full strength so too are Dublin with key forward Diarmuid Connolly’s suspension up in time for the game. He is a player that Harte rates very highly and knows that Tyrone are going to have to keep close tabs on him.

“You would be a fool to dismiss the influence that Diarmuid Connolly can have on any game – and has had over many years.

“He’s absolutely a quality player, and has developed even into a better player than he was than when he first came on the scene, where he had all the natural talent and skill and ability. But he’s a powerful player now along with that as well.

“So I suppose it’s something that Jim Gavin will be the one will decide how and when we see him, and in what context.

“So I really can’t say much about the detail, but I know for sure that he’s certainly a strength that Dublin didn’t have in their games since he got that [suspension].”