FORMER Dublin star Kevin Nolan believes that Tyrone are the team most capable of breaking his native county’s vice-like grip on the All-Ireland championship title.
The 2011 All-Star, whose career has been severely hampered since his diagnosis of diabetes in the winter of that very year, was a leading protagonist in Dublin’s last two championship encounters against Tyrone.
Consecutive All-Ireland quarter-final wins in 2010 and 2011 marked the end of an unprecedented era of success for the Red Hands and fired the starting pistol on a powerful Dublin revival that has shown no sign of abating.
Half-a-decade later, the Red Hands are bidding to derail Dublin’s three in-a-row bid in next Sunday’s All-Ireland Championship semi-final showdown.
Nolan, who runs the rule over his own career in an extensive interview with Gaelic Life this week, is concerned that his native county will come out second best in what is expected to be a blood and thunder affair.
“It’s hard to look past Dublin but I think if any of the teams can beat them, Tyrone could do it, they’re looking well. I know they played Armagh who weren’t the best competition but Armagh had got a bit of confidence under their belt from beating Kildare.
“I was in Jordanstown for a year and I got to know a few of the Tyrone lads – the likes of Ronan McNamee, Richie Donnelly and Rory Brennan – and got to understand northern football. They were nice lads first of all, and since then have a got a couple of extra years’ experience. Tyrone aren’t just a young team, they’ve also some very good footballers. I think they can test Dublin.
“I still don’t think Dublin have really been fully tested, the only tests I think they’ve got is in their in-house games. Some of the A vs B games are like competitive matches, the quality of the Dublin players has been phenomenal.”
In a recent column with the Irish Independent, Dublin legend Alan Brogan said he wanted to beat Tyrone more than any other county. Nolan said he didn’t share his former colleague’s animosity towards the northern upstarts.
“I wouldn’t say animosity. Going out into our game in 2010 we wanted to finish that particular Tyrone team, those lads like Brian Dooher. I was also on the squad in 2008 when we got a hammering against Tyrone. It’s not that I developed an animosity. In my time on the pitch, I just wanted to beat whoever was in front of me.
“I admired their football and what they did for the game in the previous decade. You looked at Tyrone football and admired how they played. At the same time, we wanted to go out and stop this.We did it again in 2011 and we were aware that Kerry were struggling against these teams and that we were able to beat them.”
Dublin are unbeaten in championship battle since their shock defeat to blanket-defence specialists Donegal in the 2014 All-Ireland semi-final. They’ve learnt their lesson but Nolan still believes that Tyrone have the potential to spring a surprise.
“I just think we were a bit naive going into that game, believing that Dublin playing football would beat any team. Teams don’t go out playing 15 vs 15 against Dublin because they know they’ll get steamrolled so they have a defensive system in place.
“In the pre-season training Dublin would’ve done work in the basketball court. They’ve looked at different sports and different ways of breaking down the blanket defence. They’re patient and really efficient with the ball. But Tyrone have a nice forward line and they have a couple of very good players. They’re getting scores so I think if anyone can challenge Dublin, Tyrone can.”
Posted: 8:20 am August 19, 2017
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