Tyrone make third semi spot on trot as Rebels pay penalty
Tyrone 2-15 Cork 2-12
Tyrone gave Cork a seven-point start last night, but still recovered to win and secure a place in the All-Ireland semi-final for the third year in a row.
At half-time it looked as if Tyrone - who trailed by five after conceding goals in the first and 19th minutes - would need something from their game against Dublin in order to stay in the hunt for a place in the last four.
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Now the only issue at stake in the Omagh tie is which team finishes first in Group 2. In theory, the table toppers ought to have an easier path to the final as they will be playing the Group 1 runners-up in the penultimate tie.
Tyrone turned last night's game around in a six-minute spell after half-time, scoring 2-2 with goals from Cathal McShane and Peter Harte's converted penalty.
Mickey Harte kept his team in the dressing room for 19 minutes at half-time, although afterwards he played down the significance of what happened at the break.
"Half-time is for assessing how the game plan is unfolding and do you need to do something different and of course when you are five points down, you need to do something," said Harte.
"We had to make adjustments within the structure of our side and obviously that involved some new personnel. Sometimes you do these things and they don't work because you don't get the result but today they worked and we got the result."
Harte withdrew Brian Kennedy, Hugh Pat McGeary and Darren McCurry and replaced them with Richard Donnelly, Michael Cassidy and Pádraig Hampsey. Arguably, it was a positional switch which saw team captain Mattie Donnelly move to the full-forward line which was the most significant of the interval changes.
Donnelly kicked three second-half points and orchestrated much of Tyrone's forward play in a man-of-the-match performance. But, overall, it was a far from convincing effort from the Ulster side who did not look like potential All-Ireland contenders last night.
Queried about the team's indifferent first-half performance, Harte suggested it might be down to tiredness. After all this was their ninth championship game of the season.
"These things happen. We are five weeks on the road now and maybe people are a bit fatigued at this stage. You never anticipate that you are going to concede a goal so early and secondly to concede another goal midway through the half.
"That's never in the script when you go out to play anybody, so that was a shock to the system. But the good thing is these players were able to deal with it and bounce back with something very positive," he said.
For the second week in a row, Cork failed to sustain their effort in the second half in which they were outscored 2-10 to 0-8 and only two of their starting forwards - Luke Connolly and Sean White - scored from play. Substitute Michael Hurley did spectacularly well though during his 20-minute cameo, hitting 0-4 from play.
But although Cork were still in the hunt at the death, the reality for them, and for Roscommon, is that their August 4 clash will be a dead rubber.
Losing boss Ronan McCarthy felt his side had managed the game well in the first half.
"Text book almost. We were very patient. It wasn't pretty on the eye but that's not our fault. The last thing you want to do is take the ball into contact. So we were patient and we probed and waited for our opportunities," he said.
He acknowledged Tyrone were an experienced side and it was inevitable that they would have a period of dominance.
"What was critical from our point of view was that we conceded so much so quickly.
"It was poor from our point of view but at least we came back and kept at it. But as it went on I felt the game was probably played more on their terms and we never looked tight enough at the back. We never get too worked up about being ahead or behind at half-time. It's the quick concession of so much that damaged us," he conceded.
While Cork have come a long way this summer they now have to adjust to the reality of a season in Division 3 of the Allianz League next spring. But at least they're looking again like a team that might challenge Kerry for provincial honours in Munster.
However, the major take-home message from Croke Park was that the stadium is unsuitable for staging Super 8 games. It was three-quarters empty for most of this tie.
If the Super 8 structure is to be retained - which is by no means certain given its propensity for throwing up meaningless ties in the last round - then the so-called Croke Park round will have to be played at neutral venues.
Such a move would also solve the issue of Dublin's unfair advantage of having two matches at the venue in this phase of the championship which only adds to the theory that they are receiving favourable treatment from the top brass.
Scorers - Tyrone: P Harte (1 pen, 3f), C McShane (4f) 1-5 each; M Donnelly 0-3, C Meyler, T McCann 0-1 each. Cork: L Connolly 1-3 (2 f), M Hurley 0-4, J Loughrey 1-0, M Collins 0-2 (2f), S Taylor, S White, J O'Rourke 0-1 each.
Tyrone: N Morgan; R Brennan, R McNamee, HP McGeary, C Meyler, K McGarry, M McKernan; C Cavanagh, B Kennedy; M Donnelly, N Sludden, P Harte; D McCurry, C McShane, F Burns. Subs: M Cassidy for HP McGeary (h-t); R Donnelly for McCurry (h-t); P Hampsey for Kennedy (h-t); T McCann for McKernan (51), C McAliskey for Sludden (55).
Cork: M White; S Cronin, T Clancy, K Flahive; L O'Donovan, T Clancy, M Taylor; I Maguire, K O'Hanlon; S White, K O'Driscoll, R Deane; L Connolly, B Hurley, M Collins. Subs: J Loughrey for T Clancy (12), P Kerrigan for Hurley (48), M Hurley for Collins (51), S Powter for S White (59), J O'Rourke for O'Driscoll (59), S Sherlock for Cronin (67).
Referee: M Deegan (Laois).
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