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Tyrone have improved since League meeting says Dublin boss Jim Gavin

Dublin manager Jim Gavin has been impressed by Tyrone's attacking edge this summer
By Paul Keane

JIM Gavin believes that All-Ireland semi-final opponents Tyrone have added a vital attacking edge to their play since the sides last met in February.

Gavin’s Dublin came from five points down at Croke Park during their Allianz League encounter with Tyrone to draw, the second time the sides have finished deadlocked in the League in the last three seasons.

The back-to-back All-Ireland-winning manager said after February’s stalemate that “from the off they (Tyrone) tried to close it out and then counter-attack. That is the style of football they play”.

He added at the time: “That’s the way they see the game to be played. We don’t. We want to play an attacking brand of football.”

But Gavin (right) insisted ahead of the counties’ first Championship meeting since 2011 that he has always been impressed by Tyrone’s miserliness at the back.

And he observed a new cutting edge to their forward play which has allowed Mickey Harte’s men to rack up tallies of 0-22, 1-21, 2-17 and 3-17 so far in the Championship.

“We’ve always looked at them as having a big scoring threat,” said Gavin.

“Even going back to our National League game in early-February, they looked very impressive going forward and they got a great goal in that game.

“Defence has always been their cornerstone and they have always been an exceptionally good counter-attacking team, but they have really added to it since that League game.

“If you look at their Championship games it has been so, so impressive from them. Particularly players coming off the bench, that has really added to it as well.

In the modern game, they are just a very dynamic team and they have been very impressive.”

Gavin’s comments could be construed as killing Tyrone with kindness ahead of what is expected to be a blood and thunder semi-final on August 27.

They have met five times in the League since Gavin took the Dublin helm in 2013 and there has typically been little between the teams – just one point in fact over those five games, in Dublin’s favour.

The three-time All-Ireland winner manager may not ever wish to set up his team like Harte, but maintained that he genuinely does appreciate Tyrone’s style of play.

“They’re just a really good team, managed really well and when you see the players they have – the two Cavanagh brothers, Mattie Donnelly, Peter Harte, Tiernan McCann – they’re just top class inter-county players,” said Gavin.

“We probably got a little look at it in 2015 and again last February and they’ve pushed on again, particularly in the Championship this year.

They’ve certainly laid down a marker for this game.”

Dublin picked up their seventh consecutive Leinster title last month while Tyrone are back-to-back Ulster champions.

“To retain any provincial title is a fair achievement but to retain it in the style that they did, at a canter, is a big statement, particularly when Ulster is such a competitive province,” said Gavin.

“Probably their development has been most impressive. We know how good they are defensively and they have a great defensive system.

“But they have been putting up big scores and they’re a free-scoring team now, 6-77 in four Championship game is a mightily impressive tally.

“It’s not just one or two players doing the scoring either, they had 10 or 12 scorers against Armagh.

“They have that balance now and they have a very good mix of experienced players, the likes of [Cathal] McCarron and [Aidan] McCrory in the full-back line, teak-tough defenders.

“But they’ve also got a good blend of youth there, from [Niall] Sludden to [Mark] Bradley up front. They’ve

a good bench to boot, [Ronan] O’Neill coming off the bench has always been a very impressive player and he looked very good in the Championship.

“So they’ve got a very good mix now. The talent they’ve had is beginning to come to the fore.”

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