O’Neill has also heaped praise on Pat Gilroy’s side for the remarkable upswing in their form this season.
O’Neill admitted: “They set up very defensively, they filter bodies back and then when they turn you over, they attack at pace. You don’t see many fellas running through the Dublin defence. Tyrone hit a lot of wides but a lot of those were under pressure. They weren’t kicking wides from 20 yards out in front of goals, they were from out in the corner. “Nearly all teams do that now, they set themselves defensively and try to defend as a unit and attack as a unit.
“I would agree that Dublin really emphasise the defensive aspect of it and make it very difficult to score – they’re certainly very good at that. They have improved unbelievably. At the start of the summer they were drawing with Wexford and losing to Meath. Now they’re beating Louth, Armagh and Tyrone. Armagh and Tyrone would consider themselves All-Ireland contenders and Louth were going very well this year. I’ve been impressed with them.”
The exit of title favourites Kerry and Tyrone has altered the landscape of this year’s championship, but O’Neill dismisses the view that Cork are now in pole position to land Sam Maguire.
“If Kerry and Tyrone are gone, and they are perceived to be two of the best teams in the country, the teams that beat them have obviously stepped up and are two of the best teams in the country.
“There’s a perception that there’s a ‘big three’ or ‘big four’ or whatever it is, but it’s not like that – any team can beat another on their day. You can only take it one game at a time. If you start skipping games in your mind, that’s when you’re going to get beaten.”
Cork must also cope with playing in front of a Croke Park crowd heavily populated by Dublin supporters, something the county has not experienced since the 1995 All-Ireland semi-final.
“We have had some good days there but we haven’t played in front of such a partisan crowd as we’ll get against Dublin,” says O’Neill.
“That’s going to be something different. But we have played up there a good few times now so we’ll just have to blot that out and drive it on.”
Meanwhile Down boss James McCartan has all but ruled key midfielder Ambrose Rogers out of the county’s All-Ireland football semi-final against Kildare on Sunday week.
The Longstone player, who has been dogged by injuries in recent years, received what could be the cruellest blow of them all when suffering a knee injury in a game against Liatroim two weeks ago.
Rogers’ worries are currently being echoed in the Kildare camp. Dermot Earley is also battling to be fit for the last-four tie after suffering a recurrence of a long-term knee injury in the quarter-final against Meath.
“He is seeing a specialist this week and we are not expecting good news,” said McCartan. “That would be the best way to look at it. Ambrose is very important to us and there is the possibility that you can tear on and take a chance.
“Maybe you would look at the Dermot Earley situation. Dermot is probably 32 and he is near the end of a very good playing career and maybe sees this as one of his last chances.
“Ambrose is a lot younger and would maybe be putting the rest of his career at risk if he were to continue playing but, ultimately, we can’t make the decision until we get to see the specialist.
” We’ll know more then.”