If Cork manage to lift the Sam Maguire Cup for the first time since 1990, they will feel they owe a debt of gratitude to Ulster teams.
That’s the opinion of veteran midfielder Nicholas Murphy, who has been playing some of the best football of his career this year.
Now 31, the gangling 6’ 6” engine-room dynamo has nurtured a healthy respect for Ulster opponents over the years but particularly so in more recent times.
“Earlier this year we met teams like Armagh, Fermanagh and Monaghan in the National League and I would have to say that they helped to bring us on and let us know where we were at,” says Murphy.
“We managed to beat Armagh and Fermanagh but Monaghan beat us well before we met them again in the Division Two final which we won.
“These games did us no harm just prior to going into the Munster championship which we won but we were rather lucky to beat Limerick by a point in the final having been taken to a replay by Kerry at the semi-final stage.”
Unlike their neighbours Kerry, Cork do not harbour any mental baggage in relation to Tyrone and that was abundantly clear in last Sunday’s Croke Park showdown when they blitzed Mickey Harte’s side despite playing with 14 men from the 29th minute.
Former Armagh star Oisin McConville, who has played against Cork on numerous occasions over the past 15 years and professes admiration for their surge to prominence this year, is convinced that the Leesiders’ preoccupation with their own game-plan is their strong point.
“Even before they met Tyrone last Sunday, I noted that Cork manager Conor Counihan, while respectful of the Red Hands, was adamant that they would stick to their own strategy and see where it would take them. Now we know — into the All Ireland final,” asserts McConville.
Kerry, in contrast, have never managed to overcome Tyrone in a major championship match at Croke Park while Mickey Harte has been in charge of the Red Hands.
Indeed, current Kingdom boss Jack O’Connor, now in his second term at the helm and still anxious to outwit the canny Harte, made it quite clear in his book published shortly after he stepped down after his initial managerial spell that claiming Tyrone’s scalp had proven an elusive goal.
He won’t now have to cross swords with them this year — Cork have spared him that physical and mental challenge!