GAA Football

Tyrone hammer Cork to book Super 8 spot

Connor McAliskey celebrates Tyrone's opening goal Picture by Philip Walsh
From Niall McCoy in Portlaoise

All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Qualifying round four

Cork 0-13 Tyrone 3-20 

AFTER the high comes the inevitable low – and after Roscommon and Armagh had served up a bona fide classic for the appetizer at O’Moore Park on Saturday, the main course produced by Tyrone and Cork left a more sour taste.

The Red Hands were completely free of fault. Instead, the blame lay exclusively at the door of a Cork side that offered pitiful resistance in a 3-20 to 0-13 hammering.

Connor McAliskey, Ronan O’Neill and Mark Bradley got the goals as Tyrone turned a 0-10 to 0-5 interval advantage into a 16-point hammering by full-time.

At every turn in this four-game Qualifier run, Mickey Harte has stayed on message, that being ‘I don’t care how we get through as long as we do.’

It’s been proclaimed in the most varying of circumstances – the skin-of-the-teeth escape against Meath in Navan and now after the cakewalk against a Cork side that finished with 14 players following Mark Collins’s late dismissal.

They’re through and they’re in the Super Eights as a result.

“It was all about winning this game today and I suppose we wouldn't have been very happy with our first half performance because we were creating lots of chances and not really putting them away,” said Harte.

“That could have put us in a difficult position. We had seven or eight chances and hadn't kicked on, so we were making life a bit hard for ourselves, but getting that double score thing before half time was very important because it sounds so much better being double scores up instead of four points.

“We wanted to keep the scoreboard ticking over for ourselves, which meant the gap was never narrowing and as the game went on we took total control of the game.”

Even in that tighter first half Tyrone always looked dominant despite a few wobbles midway through the half when goalkeeper Niall Morgan had to bail them out.

A sign that it wasn’t going to be the Rebels’ day arrived in the first minute when Luke Connolly missed a routine free, and Tyrone took the lead three minutes later through Niall Sludden who once again had a fantastic outing.

Tyrone broke through the Cork defence at the ease in the fifth minute only for goalkeeper Mark White to deny Conor Meyler and Connolly made up for his earlier miss with a leveling free in the sixth minute.

Frank Burns finished a fine sole effort before Tyrone wasted their second great goal chance when Peter Harte blasted straight at White after a clever pass from Richard Donnelly had set him through.

Colm Cavanagh and McAliskey stretched the lead before the latter had a sight of goal before being crowded out.

Then came Cork’s one and only purple patch. Ruairi Deane, Michael Hurley and Connolly (free) were all on target to draw them level in the 22nd minute. It could have been better too with Hurley’s point coming after Morgan brilliantly deflected his effort over the bar.

That was as good as it got for Ronan McCarthy’s side though as McAliskey (2), Harte and Sludden pushed Tyrone four points ahead.

Connolly responded with another free but points from Cathal McShane and McAliskey, after he was fouled by James Loughrey, gave Tyrone a 0-10 to 0-5 interval lead.

Last week Tyrone allowed Cavan to eat away at their half-time advantage but there was no fear of a repeat in Portlaoise.

McAliskey and Collins exchanged scores early in the second period before Tyrone went on a scoring burst that would kill the game as a contest.

A McAliskey free got them on their way before the hard-working Richie Donnelly showed good strength to race through and score.

In the 42nd minute a Cork kick-out was intercepted by Padraig Hampsey and the ball was quickly worked into attack where McAliskey drilled home to put Tyrone 1-13 to 0-6 ahead.

Connolly and Collins struck back but Tyrone were now coming in waves and McAliskey and Burns kept the scoreboard ticking over.

Connolly converted another free before McShane completed a superb team move involving Burns and Mattie Donnelly to leave Tyrone 10 ahead with 21 minutes still remaining,

Connolly gave the small Cork contingent something to cheer about with another free but the second Tyrone goal arrived in the 51st minute.

Harte burst through on goal and with Kevin Crowley hanging off him and a penalty looking inevitable, he showed great strength to stay on his feet and pass across goal for substitute Ronan O’Neill to net.

The game dropped to a walking pace at that stage with Harte opting to take out some big hitters early in preparation for next week’s Super Eight clash with Roscommon.

They still controlled matters though, Burns pointing again before Connolly grabbed one from play at the other end.

O’Neill pointed two frees before Mattie Donnelly added his name to the scoresheet.

Then came one of the loudest cheers of the day as the returning Mark Bradley claimed possession, sold a dummy and blasted to the net to leave Tyrone 3-20 to 0-11 ahead entering injury time.

Connolly, the losing side’s top performer on the day, rounded off the scoring with a free and a ‘45’ but the full-time whistle drove home the realisation that Cork football is in a very bad place having lost to Kerry by 17 points and Tyrone by just one less.

Tyrone can look forward with renewed confidence now as they prepare to meet Roscommon in Croke Park on Saturday.

A win, players rested and a spot in the first-ever Super Eights – it was good day for Harte and his squad but tougher tests lie ahead, they simply have to.

Despite that, Harte feels that they are fine-tuned heading into the quarter-final stage.

“Maybe that's the benefit of the Qualifiers, the more games you play, the more people are getting game-time and it keeps the players and the panel on their toes and you see players coming in there and knowing they can play at that level.

“(It’s) all good for today but we know there are more challenges ahead and we are just glad to be those challenges.

“It is a unique time in the history of the GAA, this is the first time this procedure has been on and we wanted to be part of it.”

Tyrone: N Morgan; C McCarron, R McNamee, M McKernan; T McCann, F Burns (0-3), P Harte (0-1, 0-1f); C Cavanagh (0-1), P Hampsey; M Donnelly (0-1), N Sludden (0-2), C Meyler; C McShane (0-3), R Donnelly (0-1), C McAliskey (1-6, 0-4fs)

Subs: R O’Neill (1-2, 0-2fs) for McAliskey (50), K McGeary for McShane (51), M Bradley (1-0) for Harte (52), A McCrory for McKernan (55), HP McGeary for McNamee (57).

Cork: M White; J Loughrey, J O’Sullivan, K Crowley; K Flahive, S Cronin, C Kiely; I Maguire, B O’Driscoll; S White, M Collins (0-2), R Deane (0-1); L Connolly (0-9, 0-6fs, 0-1 ‘45’), B Hurley, M Hurley (0-1)

Subs: K O’Hanlon for O’Sullivan (33, black card), P Kerrigan for Cronin (40), D O’Connor for B Hurley (47), M Taylor for O’Driscoll (50), R O’Toole for White (53), S Ryan for Loughrey (55).

Referee: Maurice Deegan (Laois)

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