Dubs within sight of semi

In a repeat of their 1995 All-Ireland final battle, Dublin and Tyrone go head-to-head at Croke Park today (throw-in 3.30pm) for the honour of making this season's last four.

In a repeat of their 1995 All-Ireland final battle, Dublin and Tyrone go head-to-head at Croke Park today (throw-in 3.30pm) for the honour of making this season's last four.

The Dubs are back at their spiritual home, sure to be jammed with a near 80,000 spectators, four weeks on from their gripping Leinster final defeat of Laois.

Paul Caffrey will be wary of his side "doing a Galway" as last weekend, the Connacht champions crashed out to Cork following a similar month-long break from action.

Obviously the fresher from the start, with Tyrone having played three times in the five weeks, the Dubs will be conscious of making the same blistering start that saw them 0-7 to 0-2 up on Laois, 24 minutes in.

Against the beaten Ulster finalists, that does not seem likely. In quashing Ryan McMenamin's four-week ban, the Disputes Resolution Authority have done a good job at shoring up the Red Hands defence.

The Dromore man is the most vital cog at the back for Tyrone and covers a number of positions. Caffrey will need his attackers to take their points, and do so at will.

Their top scorer Tomas Quinn (0-20) can afford little complacency from frees, and the newly-formed midfield partnership of former captain Ciaran Whelan and the busy Shane Ryan will be tested again.

The squaring up of Whelan and Tyrone's AFL target Sean Cavanagh will be an intriguing one, as will Dublin captain Paddy Christie's duel against Tyrone's top scorer and player of the year probable Stephen O'Neill.

The latter has scored more in the championship - 3-32 - than Dublin's full-forward line, which contains their '95 hero Jason Sherlock, has scored altogether this summer.

Last Saturday's romp against Monaghan was effectively target practice for full-forward O'Neill, but if the boys in blue can nullify him then questions will be asked of the Tyrone attack.

This is the Red Hands' third successive quarter-final appearance - a great track record, but their reliance on O'Neill and Peter Canavan's cameos off the bench, however short, can only bring them so far.

They are not looking like All-Ireland champions or finalists, to that matter. Dublin's first Leinster since 2002 has given them obvious confidence - how they use that today will tell much.

In recent years, the Dubs have done little in the All-Ireland series - winning only two Leinsters since they lifted the Sam Maguire, ten years ago.

Has anything changed this year? Well, Caffrey cannot have had a better start to his managerial reign. He has been helped by the maturity of a number of the capital's 2003 All-Ireland Under-21 winners.

Paul Griffin, Bryan Cullen, Conal Keaney and the enigmatic Alan Brogan have all assumed responsibility in a tighter-knit Dublin side for many a year.

Tyrone, after a heavy slog, will tire. If Dublin can keep fifteen men on the pitch and play football rather than enter a phoney war, then a semi-final place against Armagh or Laois should be theirs.

DUBLIN: S Cluxton; P Griffin, P Christie (capt), S O'Shaughnessy; P Casey, B Cahill, C Goggins; C Whelan, S Ryan; C Moran, A Brogan, B Cullen; J Sherlock, C Keaney, T Quinn.

TYRONE: P McConnell; R McMenamin, C Lawn, S Sweeney; D Harte, G Devlin, P Jordan; C Gormley, S Cavanagh; B Dooher (capt), B McGuigan, O Mulligan; R Mellon, S O'Neill, E McGinley.

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