Dublin have lost one championship game in the last four seasons. In fact, that can be stretched to the Boys in Blue losing two championship games in the last six seasons and they are currently undefeated in the 2017 championship.
Of the last nine national titles that have been on offer at senior level, Dublin have won seven of them. In that time they went on an unbeaten run of 36 games. Their last championship loss occurred back in 2014 at the hands of Donegal when the Dubs learned a harsh lesson over their all-out attack style of football. But that has been their only championship defeat since the start of the 2013 season.
There was an air of invincibility starting to follow this Dublin side. Two All-Ireland titles in a row on top of four league titles in a row led to questions being asked about the Dubs being unbeatable. They also added three All-Ireland under-21 titles since their first senior success of the modern era back in 2011 creating a conveyor belt of talent.
2017 saw Dublin qualify for another league final despite not firing on all cylinders during the league. They should have been beaten on three occasions, but they managed to eek out draws in each game putting them in their fifth league final in a row.
Another national title for Dublin on this occasion would have been a psychological disaster for the rest of the country. And they very nearly forced a draw as a Dean Rock free hitting the post was all that prevented the Dubs from another draw, coming from behind, but the final whistle sounded and Dublin had lost for the first time in 36 games and Kerry had won a national title.
It could be argued that this loss was also a positive for Dublin, but it was more important for the rest of the football teams out there that Dublin were beaten. Dublin winning another title, not being close to full capacity would have been a worry, but now teams know Dublin can most definitely be beaten.
And this Sunday’s opponents, Tyrone, have always been a fearless team. Under Mickey Harte’s reign, Tyrone have never been daunted by any occasion or any team. They have not always won every game, and at times they have been inferior, but in terms of mentality and steel, Tyrone have always be in good shape.
2017 has portrayed Tyrone in a relatively positive light. Their performances on the field have been impressive and the individual and collective have made incremental strides with every game.
There is a strong depth of talent within the squad that has led to Tyrone having a strong spread of scorers. Their opening win over Derry saw 0-22 contributed by 11 different scorers, 1-21 against Donegal saw 12 players on the scoresheet, 2-17 in the Ulster final against Down had 11 players on target while 10 players managed to rack up a tally of 3-17 in the quarter-final against Armagh.
Dublin will provide a bigger test but having so many players used to raising green and white flags can only be a positive at this stage. It could have been asked to whether a marquee-man was lacking but maintaining that scoring spread over four matches shows that multiple players are comfortable in front of goal.
It also replicates what Tyrone have been showing as a team this year, that the numbers on the backs of their players mean very little and everybody is expected to contribute all over the field. Despite wearing numbers 14 and 15, Sean Cavanagh and Mattie Donnelly will be seen around midfied.
Depsite wearing number seven, Peter Harte is probably seen as Tyrone’s most dangerous forward. Padraig Hampsey and Tiernan McCann are two of their greatest attacking outlets from the half-back line. Niall Sludden is becoming a leader, while others like Colm Cavanagh and Conall McCann are covering major ground around the middle third.
The impact from the bench is another thing to note when it comes to Tyrone with names like Darren McCurry, Ronan O’Neill, David Mulgrew, Conor Meyler and Cathal McShane having to make do with limited game time in this year’s championship, clearly showing that there is strong depth of personnel available to Mickey Harte.
Learning from experience appears to be another area that Tyrone are honing in on this season. The loss to Mayo last year led to a winter of hurt and the performances that followed from Mayo, in coming extremely close to beating Dublin, helped to show Tyrone just how close they actually are.
Both Tiernan McCann and Ronan McNamee raised the point on the lessons learned from 2016 prior to games this years and it comes across that Tyrone have learned a harsh lesson and it has made them a more determined outfit this season.
And the final thing to look at when it comes to Tyrone beating Dublin is the history between the sides. Back in 2005 and in 2008, Tyrone came to the capital and spoiled the party. Dublin were getting confident that the first All-Ireland since 1995 was close, but Tyrone halted their ambitions on two occasions with fearless performances.
2005 was a battle that Tyrone just edged, and all will remember Owen Mulligan’s contributions. 2008 was when Tyrone really spoilt the party. Dublin had coasted through a Leinster final while Tyrone had come through the qualifiers and in the pouring rain under lights in Croke Park, Tyrone upset everyone with a 3-14 to 1-8 hammering.
Dublin did attone for Tyrone in 2011 with an emphatic victory on the road to All-Ireland success, and the momentum that has followed the Dubs since then has been worrying for GAA followers.
But the sum of Tyrone’s parts this year makes them a very dangerous opponent for Dublin on Sunday. They can definitely win. They have a quality squad that is playing really well and a confident Tyrone under Mickey Harte is as hard to beat as any other team.
They will come to Dublin on Sunday with no fear and it would give them no better satisfaction than to be the side that ruins another Dublin dream.
The quality of their personnel, the lessons learned from 2016 and the history attached with Mickey Harte in Croke Park are all sufficient reasons as to why Tyrone can end Dublin’s unbeaten championship run that dates back to September 2014.