Tuesday 23 April 2019

Rebels could cause an upset in qualifier

All Ireland SFC Round 4 Qualifier: Cork v Tyrone, Saturday, July 7, O'Moore Park, 5pm

Cork’s Colm O’Neill in action against Tyrone in Omagh during a National Football league match in 2015
Cork’s Colm O’Neill in action against Tyrone in Omagh during a National Football league match in 2015

Diarmuid Sheehan

Well it looks like it has all come down to this.

Next Saturday evening in Portlaoise Cork will take on Tyrone for a place in the inaugural Super 8s with the winner progressing and the losers bowing out of this season's football championship.

Cork have struggled this year to get anything like a consistent challenge going and despite some reasonably good displays in the league and against Tipperary in the championship, the heavy loss to Kerry in the Munster Final looks to have knocked some of the stuffing out of Ronan McCarthy's men.

Tyrone are probably the one side Cork would be hoping to avoid in this draw, but if the Rebels want to compete at anything like championship level then playing the likes of the northern powerhouses could hardly be seen as a bad thing.

While these two counties seem like they have serious history together the truth is a little different as this will be just the third time that they will face off in championship football however the prize this time is significant.

Tyrone will start this one as favourites after seeing off Cavan in the last round while Kerry are the last team on Cork's CV and that obviously was a day the men in red would like to forget.

Cork fans will be hoping that their men can manage the same level of flare and exciting football that saw them through the red hand the last time they played, 2009 - at that time Tyrone were the All Ireland Champions and the prize was a place in the All Ireland final.

Unfortunately for both sides there has been plenty of water under the bridge since that faithful day and both sides have slipped back in the national pecking order.

Cork have nothing to lose this weekend and should, after settling into the clash, have a cut off the Ulster side. Cork are without Colm O'Neill with Paul Kerrigan another that can't start, however there is a place for the Nemo Rangers man on the bench.

Ian Maguire will need to be at his best in the middle where he will be joined by Brian O'Driscoll. Aidan Walsh is a casualty from the Munster Final with the Kanturk man having to accept a place on the bench in this one.

Tomás Clancy from Fermoy is another that will need to be content with a tracksuit rather than a starting jersey with Kevin Crowley and Kevin Flahive both starting at the rear.

There is also joy for James Loughrey who appears to be okay after his serious injury earlier in the year with the Mallow man down to start in the full-back line, along with Jamie O'Sullivan of Bishopstown and Crowley from Midleton.

Up front Mark Collins is named at centre forward however he is likely to play closer to the goal than that. Donncha O'Connor, Kerrigan and perhaps Mathew Taylor will hope to make some impact from the bench at some stage through what is likely to be a physical encounter.

The Hurley duo of Brian and Michael from Castlehaven will join Luke Connolly up front with the trio likely to rove back to the half forward line on an alternating basis.

Tyrone will bring plenty to the table with players of the potency of Ronan O'Neill likely to come in off the bench. Mattie Donnelly, Peter Harte, Niall Sludden and Tiernan McCann will all play this weekend as will Frank Burns who is another that will make life difficult for Cork.

The Rebel manager is likely to come out the best of this game, regardless of the result, as he is just at the start of his inter-county tenure, however, for his opposite number, Mickey Harte, this may well be his last game in charge if the result doesn't go his way.

Overall this is clearly the game of the round and while Cork will have plenty to do to take the spoils they may well have what it takes if lady luck smiles anywhere their direction. Tyrone are under as much pressure as Cork to perform so expect fire and brimstone right from the first whistle.

Out on a limb here. Cork to win this one by two.