Dublin still some way off their best: Tyrone boss Mickey Harte
DUBLIN have yet to begin the serious business of building towards championship intensity levels, but Mickey Harte nevertheless believes Saturday evening's Croke Park clash will provide him with valuable indicators on his Tyrone side's progress.
The Red Hands have steadied the ship following a difficult start to their NFL Division One campaign, and are unbeaten in their last three games, but still need points to pull them clear of the danger of relegation.
“It's not a place that you go really in expectation, it's more in hope that you go, so yes, it's going to be a good barometer of the progress that we think that we're making at the minute,” said Harte.
Jim Gavin's side has shown just glimpses of the exceptional qualities that have seen them win the last three All-Ireland titles, but Harte sees them as formidable opponents, even when not at peak performance levels.
“I see it as another two points that are to be fought for. I don't think that anybody would be thinking at this stage of the year that you're seeing Dublin at their peak.
“It's well known that they're not short of options. While they have people going out at the top end of the conveyer belt, they have lots of quality young men coming in, and the boys who have been in the mid-twenties age range are serious operators now.
“They have a lot of experience behind them now, a lot of quality and a lot of titles to prove it. They're a force to be reckoned with and it's not hard to see why, if they have got four All-Irelands in a row.
“Anybody else who had that there, you would be saying they're the team of the century, and Dublin deserve that title too.
“You're just seeing a Dublin team that's got a lot of quality, and have been able to beat teams every time of the year that they meet them.
“So I think it's just a question of how do we stand right now in terms of trying to get a few more league points.”
Strategies change week by week as different opponents present themselves, with a unique approach taken to preparations for each game.
But when it's the Dubs, the level of detail in analysis and planning must be taken to new levels, such is the variety of challenges presented throughout the field by the boys in blue.
“There's a lot of planning goes into every game, you have to study the opposition, and you have to see where their key threats are, and how you think you might be able to hurt them,” said Harte.
“So every team you play you have got to do that with. When it's Dublin, you have obviously more things to think about, they do have more quality right across the field, so it's a more challenging prospect.
“But it's no different, other than there's just more detail needs to go into it, because you have more things to think about.”
Two points will be enough to guarantee that Division One football will be played at Healy Park next season, but the Red Hands face a difficult run-in, with Galway travelling to Omagh for what could be a decisive final game.
“It's very easy to see that virtually all of the teams below us can pass us if we don't get any more points. Yeah, we do need to be looking about more points, wherever we find them.”