Mickey Harte believes Dublin could be more vulnerable this year than they have been for a long time and he questions whether they will have the hunger to go deep and long into the summer.
Tyrone were hammered by 12 points by the Dubs in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final, as Jim Gavin’s all-conquering champions closed in on a third Sam Maguire in a row, yet Harte has fired the opening salvo of the summer, hinting the longer they go without defeat, the more vulnerable they become.
“I think that is the case,” said the Tyrone boss at last night’s Ulster SFC launch in the O’Neill’s factory in Strabane.
“I think whenever you keep winning and the people have the medals, it is hard to see them all having the hunger to want more and sometimes you can’t replace the old hands.”
Former footballer-of-the-year Bernard Brogan has been ruled out with a cruciate knee injury, while another of Dublin’s most valuable assets, Diarmuid Connolly, remains absent from the panel with no guarantee he will return in 2018.
While acknowledging Dublin are “in pole position” the loss of that key duo, Harte believes, is enough to dent the Dublin juggernaut.
“New ones, no matter how talented they may be, they don’t have the experience, the guile of the boys they are replacing.
“There is a wee window of opportunity, where they are maybe a wee bit below the high standards of where they have been over the past couple of years.
“We can only hope.”
Harte’s comments will be noted with interest in the capital.
Most of Dublin’s opponents may be quietly accepting that a four-in-a-row is a growing inevitability, with their desire to be recognised as one of the GAA’s all-time great teams a compelling driving force. Making them unbeatable, even.
“I wouldn’t subscribe to that fatalism,” insisted Harte.
“No team lasts forever. Now, some teams do take a lot longer to get rid of than you would like, if you are from a different county, but Dublin are in pole position. They deserve to be where they are.
“They are a serious outfit, but there has to come a time when they can be beaten.
“I hope that we are one of the ones that are around when that happens.”
Harte has injury problems ahead of their Ulster championship opener against Monaghan on May 20 in Omagh.
All Star Colm Cavanagh is extremely doubtful, while Lee Brennan is the latest big scare after picking up a hamstring injury in a club game for Trillick on Sunday.
“Lee got a hamstring issue yesterday.
“We don’t know the full detail of it, but I think he came off as soon as he found that, so that is always good.
“He is seeing the physios tonight and has been talking to them and, from speaking to them, it doesn’t appear to be a serious hamstring injury.
“The fact that he came off as soon as he found it is promising, that it is not too serious.”
Cavanagh is struggling with a quad injury and hasn’t trained fully with the team.
“He is still not right... he is definitely under pressure to be ready.
“I am still not giving up hope and would love to see him at a more advanced stage than he is, but it is not a case where it is lost yet, but he is under pressure.”
Tiernan McCann has also fully recovered from the knee injury picked up in the early rounds of the league against Kildare.
Harte said he is “back in business” and played part of Killyclogher’s league game against Moy on Sunday.
“He is happy that he is over the injury part of it.
“He is not concerned about that, it is his lack of match fitness, I suppose, is his only problem.
“He will play on Friday night, which will help to get a wee bit of that behind him too.”
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