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Harte joy as Tyrone show they can be a Super act

Cork 0-13 Tyrone 3-20

Man on: Cork's Kevin Flahive is challenged by Matthew Donnelly
Man on: Cork's Kevin Flahive is challenged by Matthew Donnelly
Mickey Harte
Declan Bogue

By Declan Bogue

For the 14th time in the 18 seasons since the All-Ireland Football Championship altered and introduced a backdoor, Tyrone have reached the quarter-finals.

It couldn't be more attractive on this occasion, though, with Croke Park set to blow away the saccharine charms left from a Michael Bublé hangover with four thundering Championship matches across one weekend as the Super 8s introduces itself to the watching world.

Tyrone face Roscommon first and, a week later, will have Dublin making their way up for their first ever Championship game in Healy Park.

The Red Hands made their way to this point by trouncing Cork for fun. The margin at the end was an astonishing 16 points, just one shy of the gap Kerry managed to put between themselves and their old rivals in the Munster final. It is hard to know where Cork football goes after this, but this was the sight of a proud county bottoming out.

For Tyrone boss Mickey Harte, it was just business.

"It was all about winning this game. I suppose we wouldn't have been very happy with our first-half performance because we were creating lots of chances and not really putting them away," the Errigal Ciaran man said.

"That could have put us in a difficult position. We had seven or eight chances and hadn't kicked on, so we were making life a bit hard for ourselves, but getting that double score before half-time was very important because it sounds so much better being a double score up instead of four points.

"We wanted to keep the scoreboard ticking over for ourselves, which meant the gap was never narrowing and as it went on we took total control of the game."

Asked for his perspective on the issues facing Cork football, their manager Ronan McCarthy said afterwards: "I have my own ideas on it that I'm not going to share now.

"After the first year, I'm very clear in my mind where I need to go here and where we need to go but I'm not going to share that."

Somewhat puzzlingly, he stated that Tyrone did nothing that he didn't think they would do, which would lead one to believe he might have put plans in place.

"Not in the slightest," he said.

"They're very good at what they do and they execute it very well. I thought we weren't bad in the first half. I thought we played well enough against the blanket. They kept driving on and kept going to the end. They'll be a formidable challenge for anybody, definitely."

Asked if that Munster final defeat had taken more out of the players than he expected, he answered: "I don't think so. I'd look at it very differently.

"I felt that when I was playing and you got a beating like that, you were out of the Championship. There was no chance to recover. Here, we had two weeks, a chance, a real opportunity to set ourselves up."

Having already gone in at half-time double scores up at 0-10 to 0-5, Tyrone gathered up 2-6 in the first 16 minutes of the second period, then began resting key players.

Even the subs were full of menace, replacements Mark Bradley and Ronan O'Neill both adding late goals to further their case for inclusion the next day out.

Harte said: "I would have liked to have been able to get them off earlier but it didn't work out that way.

"But maybe that's the benefit of the qualifiers, the more games you play, the more people are getting game time and it keeps the players and the panel on their toes and you see players coming in there and knowing they can play at that level.

"It's all good for here but we know there are more challenges ahead and we are just glad to be facing those challenges. It is a unique time in the history of the GAA, this is the first time this procedure has been on and we wanted to be part of it."

This week, just as it has for the last five weeks, will be all about recovery, and targeting the two points they so desperately need against what many would see as the weakest team in Group One, Roscommon.

The importance of that game is not lost on Harte.

"It sets you on the road to either a chance of qualifying or it puts you under extreme pressure right away again," he said.

"We don't want to be under any pressure for a little while yet. We want to try to consolidate our position now in this last-eight set-up and say, 'Right, we do want to start off on the right foot', but I'm sure Roscommon are no different. They had a huge performance themselves (in their victory over Armagh), and played some hugely exciting football from the bits I saw in the first half.

"They are a very good side, have a lot of very good under-age players, had a good performance against Galway in the Connacht final so they are a formidable outfit. There's no one in the last-eight who is going to be a soft touch for anybody, I think it's going to be really competitive."

The novelty factor of the Super 8s is one thing, but what has to be acknowledged is the ability of Tyrone to keep making it to the latter stages of the competition every year. Say what you like about them, and many do, but it is hard to name a team that trust in their methods as much as the Red Hands do.

When the opposition are compliant, such as Cork were here, then it can be devastating. Rather than plant themselves in a defensive formation, they allowed themselves to be pulled out of position and manipulated by a much more streetwise Ulster opposition. By the finish, it was an assignment.

The truth was that Tyrone couldn't believe their luck as two of their goals came from flowing movements the full length of the field without a glove being laid on the Red Hand players involved.

With Mark Bradley back and among the goals, and leading scorer in the National League Lee Brennan due to return to action soon, they are coming good. Maybe at the right time, too.

Belfast Telegraph


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