Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport GAA

Tyrone are aiming to boost trophy bid by sinking Cork

By Declan Bogue

Two years ago, Cork arrived in Omagh for a fourth round National League tie and cut down a Tyrone side that had blitzed through Down, Mayo and then-reigning All-Ireland champions Donegal.

Back then, Tyrone had the brand new Niall Morgan as goalkeeper and he had already run up seven points from the dead ball in that league.

However, from the side that beat Donegal in a sometimes bad-tempered affair - the famous one that featured a red card for Michael Murphy after he followed in a missed penalty with a boot to Morgan's chest, and a day that ended on a sour note when a Tyrone supporter spat on Karl Lacey - Mickey Harte had made five changes.

Therein lies one of the peculiar things about Tyrone's league form in recent seasons. They would go on to reach that year's final, but they have never been far away from defeat either.

This year, they can feel aggrieved that they have taken so much criticism. They fell to a heavy defeat at home to Monaghan on the opening night, and noticeably changed tack to an ultra-defensive approach against Mayo.

One fact lost in the self-appointed purists' debate about the aesthetics of this and the wider-reaching implications for the game is that Tyrone have remained unbeaten in the three games since. They were desperately unlucky not to beat Dublin last Saturday night.

"How often do teams have everybody behind the ball, make a break and score?" asked Harte to the inquiring journalists after that game.

"I don't see why it should be any different in Gaelic games. If you need to defend as a team and as a unit, then you need to attack that way as well."

During the summer, teams will come under scrutiny for how they set up their defence. Those that do not have a rigid formation and plenty of bodies back may concede plenty. Their managers will be derided and snide comments will be passed on their inability to organise.

Yet in March, a reverse approach is expected?

Two more points should see Tyrone safe. This weekend represents the best chance they have of getting them if they can put the clampers on a free-scoring Cork attack.

Monaghan can all but relegate Derry in Clones tomorrow. With Dublin and Cork to follow, Brian McIver's side appear sunk.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph