But for Dean Rock, Tyrone would be referred to as Dublin’s bogey team right now.
Twice since 2015 the All-Star Dublin attacker has frustrated Tyrone with late scores at Croke Park to secure draws in the Allianz League.
Rock’s late goal two years ago rescued a precious league point and he dusted himself down after a penalty miss on Saturday evening to thwart the Red Hands again with an injury-time equalising point from a free.
Those were decisive scores because in the five league meetings that have taken place between Jim Gavin’s back to back All-Ireland champions and Mickey Harte’s Tyrone, Dublin are surprisingly just one point better off overall.
Tyrone then have consistently had Dublin’s number and with no meetings between the teams in championship football in that period it is the match-up that everyone is hoping for this summer.
“Tyrone are at a stage where they’re really competing,” said Rock.
“They won Ulster last year as well as Division 2. They’re really coming strong and you saw that again the other night. Even the McKenna Cup that they went through last month, they went and won that tournament so they’re breeding winning up there and obviously it was a big game for us.
“We haven’t really beaten them in the last few years. We drew with them twice and maybe beat them once in the league. They’re just hugely competitive games and I’m sure we could bump into them later on in the Championship.”
For the record, in those five meetings between the counties since 2013, all in the league, Dublin have won two, lost one, and drawn twice. One of the wins was the 2013 league final though there’s never been more than a point between the sides in any game with Tyrone happy to play a game of chess with the capital men. That’s what it amounted to again on Saturday night as the irresistible force of Dublin’s attacking approach ran into Tyrone’s immovable defence.
“Our philosophy in terms of how we play football is attacking and trying to get guys coming off the shoulder and playing that attacking style of football,” continued Rock. “Obviously Tyrone, they play attacking football but in different ways in terms of counter attacking football.
“It is very defensive but we’ve come up against it numerous times before and it’s a challenge we kind of enjoy. It was nothing new for us though they’re probably a few steps ahead of most in terms of how to play that system because they’re doing it a while and they’re very effective at it.”
Next up for Dublin in the league as they seek to extend their unbeaten run to 32 games is Donegal on Sunday week, another county that has had big success with a defensive approach.
The two-week break will allow Dublin to improve their fitness because they only returned to full training after their team holiday in mid-January.
“We’re a long way behind where we were last year in terms of mileage in the legs,” said Rock. “We’re only getting back into our gym sessions and our running sessions on the pitch. For the last four weeks all we’ve been doing basically is ball skills and a few games in training to try and get ourselves up to the pitch of it. So we’re happy with ourselves that we’ve managed to get three points out of four in the first two games.”
Rock allayed fears surrounding experienced wing-back James McCarthy who hobbled off against Tyrone. “James is grand, he is fine. He’ll be okay for Donegal the next day.”
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