Tyrone’s Brian Kennedy says Cork could be a dangerous side after their win last time out against Donegal

Red Hands midfielder impressed by Rebels’ win over Ulster champions

Brian Kennedy of Tyrone chasing after Donegal's Eoghan Bán Gallagher during an All-Ireland Senior Football Championship match
Brian Kennedy of Tyrone is cautious of Cork after what they did to Ulster rivals Donegal in the last round of SFC fixtures. PICTURE: Margaret McLaughlin (MARGARET MCLAUGHLIN PHOTOGRAPHY / COPYRIGHT MCLAUGHLINPRESS.COM / 07711932889)

Any team that beats Donegal must be rated as one of the country’s top sides, and Tyrone are facing a real battle – that’s the view of Brian Kennedy ahead of Saturday’s clash with Cork.

The Red Hand midfielder believes the resurgent Rebels carry many threats to his side’s bid to win back-to-back games for the first time since last March.

With the top spot in the group up for grabs, and elimination also a possibility, there’s everything to play for in this concluding round-robin tie at Tullamore.

“They’re going to be a tough team. If you’re beating Donegal, you’re up there with the top four or five teams in Ireland,” said Kennedy.

“We’ll get our homework done for it will be a massive test.

“They drew with Armagh in the league, they put it up to Kerry and they beat Donegal, so if you look at their form, they’re playing well, and it’s going to be a massive test.

“They have big men all over the field, a big middle eight and an attack that’s going to be hard to shut down.”

Meetings between Tyrone and Cork have been infrequent in recent seasons, but Kennedy is mindful of the fact that the Munster county has traditionally been a difficult opponent.

“Cork has always been a tough team for us, we have never had any handy battles against them.

“It’s going to be a huge game, and we’re going to have to put it up to them as best we can.”

Consistency has been a major problem for a Tyrone team that has displayed erratic form in both league and championship this season, and the former All-Star sees an opportunity to address that burning issue.

“It’s just about getting a run of games now, and we have to back that performance up against Cork.

“But it’s going to be tough to put Cork away, we saw what they did against Donegal. It’s going to be a massive test.”

Sustaining levels of performance within games has also raised questions over consistency.

Niall Devlin celebrates.jpg
Tyrone defender Niall Devlin celebrates scoring in Tyrone's 14-point victory of Clare (seamus loughran)

In their last game against Clare, Tyrone struggled for the best part of an hour, before finally hitting form in the final 15 minutes with a scoring burst that carried them to a 14-point victory.

“As the game got more open, we saw Darragh and Ruairi (Canavan brothers) coming into it more, and Mattie (Donnelly) scored some massive points to settle us.

“We were glad to see those scores, and Niall Devlin with two goals was massive.”

Veteran Mattie Donnelly was one of the main drivers of that late surge, and will be a key figure again this weekend.

Mattie Donnelly tackles Donegal's Peadar Mogan as Conn Kilpatrick looks on during Donegal's All-Ireland SFC Group Three win over Tyrone.
Mattie Donnelly tackles Donegal's Peadar Mogan as Conn Kilpatrick looks on during Donegal's All-Ireland SFC Group Three win over Tyrone.

“Mattie drives that team on, big-time. He’s massive for us.

“We knew Clare were going to come and put up a big fight. They ran Kerry close as well, and put it up to Cork, so we knew it was going to be difficult.

“They have big men around the middle of the field and plenty of pace. Thankfully we managed to pull away from them in the end, but they definitely put it up to us.”

And Cork’s win over Donegal the previous day had put a different complexion on the tie.

“It left that game knock-out football, whoever was beaten was away home.

“So that gave us an extra bit of impetus to go out and put the game to bed.”