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Mickey Harte hails Tyrone character after classy comeback to reach All-Ireland semi-final

Cork 2-12 Tyrone 2-15


Under pressure: Tyrone ace Richard Donnelly attempts to put off Cork’s Sean White

Under pressure: Tyrone ace Richard Donnelly attempts to put off Cork’s Sean White

�INPHO/James Crombie

Peter Harte with Killian O'Hanlon

Peter Harte with Killian O'Hanlon

�INPHO/James Crombie

Under pressure: Tyrone ace Richard Donnelly attempts to put off Cork’s Sean White

Tyrone have reached another All-Ireland semi-final thanks to this impressive turnaround - they were in arrears by double figures at one stage - after shaking things up at half-time.

This is the first time the Red Hands have made it to three consecutive All-Ireland semi-finals and they now have a free weekend before they face Dublin in their final Super 8s tie in what will be something of a phony war in Omagh - if such a thing can exist, of course.

Cork jumped into a spectacular start after just 13 seconds. After winning the throw-in, half-back Mattie Taylor played a ball to Ian Maguire and he steamed through the middle and laid off to Luke Connolly to drill low past Tyrone goalkeeper Niall Morgan.

Two Mark Collins frees and another point from Taylor came just before an incredible second goal. After 23 handpasses, they released former Antrim player James Loughrey in front of goal. The Belfast man had only been on for six minutes and had options either side of him but planted a finish to the top corner of the net to move Cork 2-3 to 0-2 ahead after 18 minutes.

The story of the game was what happened at half-time. Cork had kept Cathal McShane quiet. Centre-forward Sean White had over 30 possessions in that period and Tyrone had found themselves sliced open through the middle for two goals.

In came All-Star Padraig Hampsey, Richard Donnelly and Michael Cassidy. Up went Mattie Donnelly to full-forward to give McShane a hand out. Donnelly bent the game to his will in a way not seen since Henry Shefflin was in his prime.

Manager Mickey Harte said afterwards: "That's what half-time is for, it's for assessing how you have been and how the game plan is unfolding and if you need to do something different.

"And of course when you are five points down you need to do something different so we had to make adjustments within the structure of our side and obviously that involves 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."

His opposite number, Cork manager Ronan McCarthy, was phlegmatic.

"I thought we managed the game very well in the first half. 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," he said.

"We did that really well but as the first half wore on maybe we were caught taking the ball into contact and then we started the second half well but when they had their period of dominance we just conceded too much."

In the 43rd minute, Tyrone put together a neat move involving Frank Burns, Rory Brennan, Niall Sludden, Mattie Donnelly and Michael McKernan to gift McShane a palmed goal.

In the next play, Sludden turned possession over and Mattie Donnelly was fouled for Peter Harte to swing a free over.

From the resultant kickout, Richie Donnelly fetched and it went through his brother Mattie to Kieran McGeary. He played a clever low fistpass to Sludden, who was bundled over in the penalty area by Taylor. Harte stepped up and was ruthless with his conversion.

That made it 2-7 to 2-5. Cork's lead gone in two minutes. They would draw level twice more but by then the momentum had swung in Tyrone's favour.

So, why were the Red Hands so off in the first half?

"These things happen," smiled Harte. "We are five weeks on the road now and maybe people are a wee bit fatigued at this stage.

"Other times you just don't have an explanation for these things, you never anticipate that you are going to concede so early, and to concede another goal.

"That's never in the script when you go out to play anybody so it is a shock to the system. It happens but the good thing is these players were able to deal with it and bounce back with something very positive."

As to where best to play Mattie Donnelly, he answered: "It's a think on your feet job. We would like to play him everywhere. The same with Petey Harte; we would play him in 10 different places but you have to decide on any one day where the best place is to play him.

"You have to have that ability to adapt."

Since losing their Ulster semi to Donegal, Tyrone have been on the road for five games in five weeks. Asked if that had a significant toll, Harte said: "You never know. They are enjoying playing the game. We wouldn't be training them very hard at this stage but five weeks on the road is a right slog for amateur players and trying to get themselves recovered in a few days and prepared in another few.

"It does take its toll and a lot of travel has been involved in that, and a lot of those games were demanding. It does take its toll but when we get through it and take a break it will be good. It's character building how we came through that game."

Now, to Dublin. Does he experiment and give the fringe players some action, or go bald-headed for the win, which would be their second over Dublin this year and set up a semi-final against the second-placed team in Group One?

"We'll see how the bodies are and we'll see if some people need a break or a rest," said Harte. "The options are open."

TYRONE: N Morgan; HP McGeary, R McNamee, R Brennan; M McKernan, K McGeary, F Burns; C Cavanagh, B Kennedy; M Donnelly 0-3, N Sludden, P Harte 1-5, 1-0 Pen, 3f; D McCurry, C McShane 1-5, 4f, C Meyler 0-1

Subs: P Hampsey for Kennedy, R Donnelly for McCurry, M Cassidy for HP McGeary (All HT), T McCann 0-1 for McKernan (52m), C McAliskey for Sludden (56m)

CORK: M White; S Cronin, Thomas Clancy, K Flahive; L O'Donovan. Tomás Clancy, M Taylor 0-1; I Maguire, K O'Hanlon; K O'Driscoll, S White 0-1, R Deane; M Collins 0-2f, B Hurley, L Connolly 1-3, 2f

Subs: J Loughrey 1-0, for Tomás Clancy (12m), P Kerrigan for B Hurley (49m), M Hurley 0-4 for Collins (52m), J O'Rourke 0-1 for O'Driscoll (59m), S Sherlock for Cronin (67m)

Referee: Maurice Deegan (Laois)


Belfast Telegraph