'Biggest test yet' for Dub team in search of best
Cosi warns of Omagh ambush if the champions are 'not at it'
Ray Cosgrove sounds almost relieved that he wasn't caught in the maelstrom for some of those defining Dublin/Tyrone duels from the mid-to-late noughties.
Owen Mulligan's Goal of the Decade in 2005? He was among the Dublin subs in the Hogan Stand, every bit as helpless as his dummy-buying comrades.
The Battle of Omagh in '06? "No, we were in the club championship," says the Kilmacud Crokes man, then preparing for an All-Ireland semi-final. "I'm glad I missed that one!"
And the hammering of 2008? He had retired the previous May.
But Cosgrove saw enough of that Tyrone team to appreciate just how good they were. Mickey Harte's latest Red Hand incarnation have a marathon to run before they can even talk of emulation. And yet the recent evidence, however inconclusive based on those porous Rebel and Rossie rearguards, is enough to have 'Cosi' concerned as the Dublin team bus heads for Healy Park this evening.
With week two of the 'Super 8s' upon us, he can see Tyrone are starting to motor. Whereas the Dubs are not quite purring.
On the proviso that Dublin should beat Roscommon in their final outing, the expectation is they'll reach the All-Ireland semi-finals, come what may this evening.
That being so, "this will probably be the biggest game they'll get before a semi-final - and the toughest game that they'll come up against," Cosgrove ventures.
"I'd say, deep down, he (Jim Gavin) does feel that they haven't hit the heights of previous years. And I'd say he is a little bit … honestly, he's saying we could get caught if we're not at it.
"A five-point victory against Donegal, and they're missing Paddy McBrearty (who kicked 0-7 in their February league clash) ... now, if McBrearty was around the last day, you can be sure it would have been a different game."
Looking on as Tyrone laid waste to Roscommon last Saturday, Cosgrove formed the view that they're not quite as defensive as last season.
"I was hugely impressed with how quickly they broke out of defence," he says.
"They were hugely athletic. The muscle definition in their legs, you could tell that these guys are prime athletes. They can cover a huge amount of ground ... Frank Burns was breaking forward, and Tiernan McCann. I do think they're going to cause Dublin lots of problems.
"I was expecting a much closer game in the championship last year," he adds. "I think it's going to be a really tough place to grind out a result, and Jim might make a few changes from the team that started last week because he still has the luxury that if things don't work out, he has the Roscommon game."
Cormac Costello, perhaps?
"I was hugely impressed with him the last two days. But, similar to Kevin Mac (McManamon) over the years, I think Cormac is going to be used as a springer. I think he's going to be the impact sub.
"You might see someone like Flynner (Paul Flynn) coming in the next day, or Kevin Mac, who have more experience, physically better conditioned ... and then Cormac coming in when fellas tire out."
Last word, though, harks back to '05. That Mulligan moment of magic.
"I remember him throwing Shaugho and Case (Stephen O'Shaughnessy and Paul Casey) the shimmy. It was an absolutely fantastic goal. And, as a forward, you have to take your hat off and say the audacity to throw that dummy."
But would it be scored in 2018?
"Not with all the bodies behind the ball!" he surmises. "And not with the current Dublin full-back line, you'd imagine."