GAA Football

Tyrone expected to dismiss softened up Cork in Super 8s clash

Tyrone's Matthew Donnelly gets past Cork's Ruairi Deane in last year's Round Four meeting. Tyrone are expected to win again in tonight's Super 8s clash

All-Ireland quarter-final Group two, Phase Two Tyrone v Cork (today, Croke Park, 5pm)


SOFTENED up by the Dubs and ready to be KO’d by the Red Hands. This is the inescapable truth for Cork this evening. There is also a weighty archive that suggests Tyrone almost always pass these kinds of tests.

In boxing parlance, Tyrone have skin like leather, whereas Cork cut a little easier.

Still, there’s more than a bit of anarchy, or even Mayo-lite, about the resurgent Rebels that should keep Tyrone anxious and concentrated.

When Ronan McCarthy took over from Peadar Healy at the end of last season, the new manager’s inclination was to go defensive. The players railed against this notion and pleaded with McCarthy to let them play.

And Cork have done exactly that in this year’s Championship – despite dropping out of Division Two in the spring.

Their new-found freedom pushed Kerry harder than Kerry ever imagined in last month’s Munster final before dismissing a sticky Laois side with a bit to spare in their one and only Qualifier.

Indeed, one of the eccentricities of the All-Ireland series is that Cork are making only their fourth Championship appearance to Tyrone’s eighth.

So perhaps it’s Tyrone who should be feeling weary at this stage of summer and not Cork.

Of course, the bad news for the beaten Munster finalists is that Tyrone probably sagged a little at the All-Ireland semi-final stages, while at this juncture last year the-then Roscommon manager Kevin McStay was mesmerised at Tyrone’s fitness levels as he watched the Red Hand half-forward line get back “like bullets” in their painfully one-sided Super 8s meeting at Croke Park.

Moreover, the Super 8s is new territory for Cork. They aren’t fully road-tested at this level like Tyrone are, plus they expended so much physical and emotional energy in staying with Dublin for a glorious hour of football last Saturday night before conceding a staggering 3-4 in the final quarter.

How much have Cork left in the tank after that gallant effort?

Indeed, there must be questions posed of Cork being able to last 70-plus minutes of Championship football as they were also running on sand in the final 10 minutes against Laois.

Nevertheless, Cork are on bonus territory.

Up to now, Ronan McCarthy has made Championship football a state of mind for his players.

They’re not a team that fiddles with the handbrake and they will keep faith with what they do well.

A bit like Mayo, they’re a team that gambles and pays no heed to the consequences.

Also, a dozen of tonight’s starting line-up have bitter memories of their Round Four hammering by Tyrone in O’Moore Park last July.

In Liam O’Donovan and Mattie Taylor they have two of the most attack-minded half-backs in the country.

Thomas Clancy illustrated Cork’s intensity in the tackle by throwing Cormac Costello and John Small over the sideline in the early stages.

Their midfield and break ball strategy from their own kick-outs was hugely impressive against the Dubs.

Ruairi Deane, pushed into centre-forward again to make space for Killian O’Hanlon at midfield tonight, will cause problems with his direct running and Kevin O’Driscoll and Luke Connolly are both good on the loop for scores as well as timing their runs from deep positions.

Inside men Brian Hurley and Mark Collins are perpetual motion, good shooters and won’t think twice about stopping Tyrone’s counter-attack by fair or foul means.

They also have better options on the bench than seven days ago with the highly rated Sean Powter and Eoghan McSweeney almost certain to bolster Cork’s challenge at some stage of proceedings this evening.

Veteran forward and Nemo Rangers clubman Paul Kerrigan ran out of gas last Saturday night, in what was arguably Cork’s best performance since 2010, but his clever runs still broke Dublin’s cordon a few times up until his 56th minute substitution.

On paper, Cork could possibly finish with a stronger 15 than the one they have named to start.

But will they be in the game in the final quarter to make full use of their bench?

It’s the kind of contest where you’re posing more questions of Cork than Tyrone because you know what you’re going to get from Tyrone.

They have the best goalkeeper in the country in Niall Morgan, they remain the turnover kings, they have deadly line-breakers who are hitting form at the right time, and in Cathal McShane they have an explosive device on the edge of the square.

While Tyrone haven’t shown their tactical versatility ever since Donegal pulled the chain on their provincial prospects, Mickey Harte’s team can switch to a more attacking template much better than previous seasons should they fall behind against Cork.

But it’s exactly Tyrone’s running game – their tactical preference - that holds the key to victory tonight.

Cork, in many ways, are tailor-made to be picked off by the Ulstermen because their wing-backs play so high up the field and there are oceans of space behind them to exploit.

Cian O’Sullivan’s ropey defensive display last Saturday night allowed Cork to make in-roads.

The Tyrone defence won’t be so charitable.

Cork’s runners will face more than a few cul de sacs and will therefore need to kill the ball with most of their attacks, if only to insulate themselves from Tyrone’s quick counter-attack because the Rebels’ sweeper system is too hastily arranged to be effective.

Running Kerry and Dublin close is likely to be as good as it gets for Cork.

Softened up by the Dubs and ready to be KO’d by the Red Hands. The inescapable truth for Cork.


Man of the moment…

Niall Morgan (Tyrone)

THE Edendork man has never played better for Tyrone than this summer’s Championship. Shaun Patton of Donegal is certainly giving him a run for his money for the best goalkeeper in the country tag but Morgan is the more all-rounder of the two. Morgan’s concentration levels have been outstanding this year. If anything, his performances are getting stronger as the season progresses. Man-of-the-match against Cavan and it was a toss-up between him and Cathal McShane against Roscommon last weekend. Kick-outs, alertness, initiating attacks, reflex saves, placed balls, high balls – it’s all in Morgan’s locker in 2019.


Key battle…

James Loughrey (Cork) v Cathal McShane (Tyrone)

THERE mightn’t be 70 minutes in former Antrim defender James Loughrey any more but he still looks like Cork’s best bet to draw the sting out of Tyrone’s Cathal McShane this evening. Still explosive over 10 yards, the 32-year-old Loughrey will need to be at his best against the best attacker in the country right now.


Team talk…


CORK boss Ronan McCarthy makes one change to his starting line-up that ran Dublin close for an hour last weekend. Killian O’Hanlon returns to midfield with Paul Kerrigan dropping out of the starting line-up. Ruairi Deane is redeployed back to centre-forward with Sean Powter and Eoghan McSweeney notable additions to the Cork bench.

Cork (v Tyrone): Mark White; James Loughrey, Thomas Clancy, Kevin Flahive; Liam O’Donovan, Tomas Clancy, Mattie Taylor; Ian Maguire, Killian O’Hanlon; Kevin O’Driscoll, Sean White, Ruairi Deane; Mark Collins, Brian Hurley, Luke Connolly Subs: Michael Martin, Kevin O’Donovan, Stephen Cronin, Sean Powter, Cian Kiely, Ronan O’Toole, Eoghan McSweeney, John O’Rourke, Paul Kerrigan, Michael Hurley, Stephen Sherlock



THERE was a time Mickey Harte would declare his hand early in the week and generally stick with it. But that tradition has slipped with the starting line-up expected at lunchtime today. The fact that there is an announcement delay suggests a few injury worries or perhaps concerns over which is the best half-back line to stymie Cork’s flank attacks.


Weather watch…

Should be near perfect conditions for playing football at Croke Park this evening. There may be a skiff of rain during the game but not enough to speed up an already fast surface. Temperatures will peak around 20 degrees with humidity below 60%.


Tactical take…


TYRONE will like the idea of Cork’s defenders playing quite high up the field as they’re inclined to leave acres of grass behind them, which is perfect for the Red Hands’ running game. Niall Sludden, Peter Harte and Mattie Donnelly are Tyrone’s chief line-breakers and Cork will have their hands full trying to stop their well-rehearsed, angled runs into opposition territory.

We could also see periods in the game where Tyrone will play with more than just Cathal McShane up front as they might want to revisit their kicking game at Croke Park with a possible All-Ireland semi-final appearance in mind.



IF Cork weren’t going to change for Dublin, they’re not going to change for Tyrone. They will tackle hard and they will attack well from the flanks, with Liam O’Donovan and Mattie Taylor knowing only one way to play. Ruairi Deane’s direct running has been a glowing feature of Cork’s play this year, who can also lend at hand on the edge of the square.

They are not totally reliant on a high-intensity running game with Brian Hurley and Mark Collins always capable of getting out in front of their men for kick passes. Their defensive structure can be a bit laissez faire, which is Cork’s greatest weakness.


Betting box…

Tyrone 3/10

Croke 7/2

Draw 9/1

Handicap betting:

Tyrone (-4) 10/11

Cork +4 1/1

Draw (-4) 10/1

First goalscorer:

Cathal McShane 11/2; anytime 7/4; last goalscorer 11/2

Brian Hurley 13/2; anytime 12/5; last goalscorer 13/2

No goalscorer 8/1


Who’s the ref?

Maurice Deegan (Laois)

The realpolitik of being a referee is that you’ll probably upset at least one of the teams you’re officiating at the final whistle. But when you start upsetting the neutrals, you have a problem. On so many levels, Deegan’s performance between Mayo and Armagh in Castlebar was simply not good enough. Prior to that he had a comfortable night in Armagh between Tyrone and Antrim in the Ulster Championship but posted another erratic display in Monaghan’s fractious win over Fermanagh in the Qualifiers. It hasn’t been a good summer for the affable Laois man. Deegan needs to rediscover his ‘mojo’ in Croke this evening to claw back some ground.


Previous Championship meetings…

1973 All-Ireland SFC semi-final: Cork 5-10 Tyrone 2-4

2009 All-Ireland SFC semi-final: Cork 1-13 Tyrone 0-11

2018 All-Ireland SFC Round Four Qualifier: Cork 0-13 Tyrone 3-20


Last Championship meeting…

Saturday July 7 2018: All-Ireland SFC Round Four Qualifier: Cork 0-13 Tyrone 3-20

TYRONE took the back roads to last year’s All-Ireland final. Having sneaked past Meath in Navan, the Red Hands had no trouble reaching the inaugural Super 8s with handy wins over Carlow, Cavan and then Cork.

It was Cork who were fancied to give the northerners a bloody nose but a 16-point hammering signalled the end of Peadar Healy’s time in charge of the Rebels.

Tyrone should have won by more down in sunny O’Moore Park last July. After missing hatful of chances they still led 0-10 to 0-5 at the break before Conor McAliskey and substitutes Mark Bradley and Ronan O’Neill rammed home Tyrone’s advantage in the second half. Mark Collins was red-carded late on for a dishevelled Cork.

Tyrone: N Morgan; C McCarron, R McNamee, M McKernan; T McCann, F Burns (0-3), P Harte (0-1, 0-1 free); 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, 0-4 frees). Subs: R O’Neill (1-2, 0-2 frees) 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, 0-6 frees, 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 (58)

Referee: M Deegan (Laois)

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