Friday 19 October 2018

Harte relishing 'special' Dubs visit as inquest into Cork horror show begins

Tyrone 3-20 Cork 0-13

Cork goalkeeper Mark White can only look on as Ronan O’Neill palms the ball
home for Tyrone’s second goal in Portlaoise. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Cork goalkeeper Mark White can only look on as Ronan O’Neill palms the ball home for Tyrone’s second goal in Portlaoise. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Michael Verney

It may not have been their chosen route, but Tyrone are back in the last eight for the 14th time in the past 18 seasons.

There have been some bumps along the road since their Ulster SFC defeat to Monaghan - notably their dramatic extra-time qualifier defeat of Meath - but the 'Super 8s' beckons after the Red Hand swatted a meek Cork challenge aside in O'Moore Park, Portlaoise on Saturday night.

Peter Harte of Tyrone in action against Kevin Crowley of Cork. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Peter Harte of Tyrone in action against Kevin Crowley of Cork. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Not known for their spellbinding attacking play, the Red Hand hit 3-13 from play with ten different scorers - they also spurned a hat-trick of first-half goal chances - as their powerful counter-attacking style proved too much for a Rebel side devoid of ideas.

Pressing up on Mark White's kick-outs and forcing the Cork keeper to go long, Colm Cavanagh and Pádraig Hampsey dominated the midfield exchanges which provided a platform for Connor McAliskey, and the Clonoe attacker made hay, firing 1-6.

It sets Mickey Harte's men up for the 'Super 8s' and a shot at redemption for last year's All-Ireland semi-final mauling to Dublin, but the Tyrone boss knows they must show their true colours to banish those demons when the sides meet in a historic tie in Omagh on July 21/22.

"The prize was massive. It was not just about a single game it was about ensuring your entry into a bit of history in the GAA. We would not have been happy with the team that we have watching others being there who felt we were better than," Harte said.

Niall Sludden of Tyrone in action against Brian Hurley of Cork. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Niall Sludden of Tyrone in action against Brian Hurley of Cork. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

"It is going to be something different and really special. Dublin have had so many championship games in Croke Park and they have lit up the place so now we are going to see them up in Tyrone and people are very excited about that.

"It is something to look forward to as long as we play to the best of our ability. It won't be very exciting if they come up and hammer us like last year."

Roscommon in Croke Park next weekend is their first assignment, however, and the three-time All-Ireland-winning manager knows the importance of "starting off on the right foot" with victory.

"It sets you on the road to either a chance of qualifying or it puts you under extreme pressure right away again. We don't want to be under any pressure for just a little while," Harte said.

Cathal McShane of Tyrone in action against Stephen Cronin of Cork. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Cathal McShane of Tyrone in action against Stephen Cronin of Cork. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Having been humiliated on home soil by Kerry in the Munster final, a backlash was expected from Cork, but it never materialised as they limped out of the summer with 16- and 17-point defeats in their last two outings respectively.

A corner looked to have been turned on Leeside with their impressive rout of Tipperary, but that seems like a long time ago now and they couldn't find holes in Tyrone's blanket defence.

Luke Connolly was a rare bright spark, but didn't receive enough supply, while Mark Collins was trying to turn the tide before he saw red for a needless strike on Conor Meyler in the 63rd minute.

It was a sorry swansong for veteran attacker Donncha O'Connor, who called time on his inter-county career and severed one of the last remaining links to their 2010 All-Ireland success (Aidan Walsh was an unused substitute), as Rebel boss Ronan McCarthy hinted that change was afoot for 2019.

Cian Kelly of Cork in action against Matthew Donnelly of Tyrone. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Cian Kelly of Cork in action against Matthew Donnelly of Tyrone. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

"You have to go out and earn what you get and the pity is that the work that the players have put in hasn't been reflected, but we have to accept it," McCarthy said.

"After the first year (of a three-year term), I'm very clear in my mind where I need to go and where we need to go, but I'm not going to share that.

"The basics of commitment and training, dedication and work and everything else are there, but they're not coming out on the pitch, therefore we must go a different way."

Were it not for White, Tyrone could have been out of sight after the first quarter as the Clonakilty netminder saved from Meyler, Peter Harte and Cathal McShane, as the Ulster side dominated the early exchanges to lead 0-4 to 0-1.

Cork gained a brief foothold to draw level but Tyrone were over-running them in every sector of the pitch and kicked ahead with six of the next seven scores to hold a commanding double scores lead at the break, 0-10 to 0-5.

Any thoughts of a Cork comeback were dispelled when McAliskey netted in the 42nd minute to put them Tyrone points up, 1-13 to 0-6, and with victory assured, Harte emptied the bench with a busy schedule on the horizon as further goals from substitutes Ronan O'Neill and Mark Bradley put the seal on a commanding display.

Having dominated GAA talk this week, Harte also had his say on whether reigning All-Ireland champions Dublin playing two 'Super 8s' games in Croke Park is an unfair advantage.

"For Dublin to get two in Croke Park does seem like two home games. Whether they think it or anybody else thinks it or not, that's where they play all of their Championship matches," he said.

"So it possibly does look like they are getting two home games, and I'm sure if people look into that they might try to make a different adjustment in the seasons ahead."

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