GAA Football

Analysis File on 2019 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship: Tyrone v Cork

Tyrone's Peter Harte and Cork's Luke Connolly in action at Croke Park on Saturday. Picture by Philip Walsh.
Andy Watters and Francis Mooney

All-Ireland Senior Football Championship quarter-final, group two, phase two: Tyrone 2-15 Cork 2-12

Tactical Take


A familiar defensive system, complete with double sweeper, faced up to a hungry Cork side in the opening half, but Mickey Harte was forced to change tack after the wall was breached for two goals.

Mattie Donnelly and Peter Harte were pushed up in support of Cathal McShane in the second period as they went long and direct, with stunning rewards as they rocked the Rebels with 2-10.

Intensity levels were stepped up, and while concerns remain over defensive security, this was an attacking triumph, with the aforementioned trio scoring a combined total of 2-13.

With Frank Burns and Conor Meyler breaking the lines, the Red Hands were a much more potent force as they reverted to an approach that had served them well in the latter part of the League.


The beaten Munster finalists, encouraged by the problems they caused for Kerry and Dublin, adopted a high press right from the outset, leaving three men inside, and it troubled the Red Hands.

For the opening half, they worked the ball at close quarters, never carrying possession into the tackle, and waiting for the pockets of space to open up from which to execute scores, including two goals.

But they struggled to contain Tyrone’s hard running after the break, and were unable to maintain the shape and intensity that had helped them to a seven points lead.

Speed of thought came nowhere near to that of their opponents as the Ulster side seized control and exposed Cork’s defensive frailties.

Top score

Tyrone were trailing and desperately needed a way back into the game when Niall Sludden picked out Mattie Donnelly's run in the early stages of the second half. Donnelly gathered the ball and out-muscled and out-paced two defenders before off-loading it to Michael McKernan. In the third act of a flowing move, McKernan fisted the ball high across the goal where Cathal McShane was stationed and he met it with a two-fisted airborne strike the sent it whistling into the back of Cork's net. Tyrone never looked back.

Key Battle

Mattie Donnelly (Cork) v Kevin Flahive (Cork)

DONNELLY'S move up to a two-man full-forward line was the catalyst for Tyrone's recovery. Flahive was assigned to mark him but, even with help from Stephen Cronin, he could not handle his pace or his power. Donnelly shrugged him off in the build-up to Cathal McShane's goal and Flahive fouls yielded two more pointed frees. Donnelly also scored three points from play to complete a virtuoso second half display that saw Tyrone reach the All-Ireland semi-finals.

Ref Watch

Maurice Deegan (Laois)

DEEGAN had been criticised for his time-keeping in the Mayo-Armagh Qualifier but there was no such controversy yesterday.

One incident is worth reviewing though and it came in the second half. Deegan allowed advantage after a foul on Mattie Donnelly outside the square when Donnelly rode the tackle and stayed on his feet. But he was then fouled again inside the square as he attempted to shoot and Deegan called play back for the original free. Was that justice for the attacking team?

Turning Point

The turning point was reached beneath the Cusack Stand at half-time, when Mickey Harte briefed his players on a shift in strategy, the most significant aspect of which was Mattie Donnelly’s move to the inside line of attack.

Captain Fantastic led the line and his team with authority as they changed the narrative with a more direct approach, and goals from Cathal McShane and Peter Harte were a direct result of this as the Red Hands put a disastrous opening half behind them.


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