McGinley returns to the starting 15 for the first time since the Ulster semi-final victory over Derry in June and has only featured as a late substitute in the provincial final win against Antrim since then, due to a recurring hamstring injury which restricted his involvement. The inclusion of the Errigal Ciarán man sees Sean Cavanagh move to the attack at centre-forward, where he will be up against Cork captain Graham Canty in what should be a defining battle in the match. Tommy McGuigan, who has struggled to find form in recent games, is the player to drop to the bench.
The other talking point in the team selection concerns the defensive alterations that Harte has made. In a direct swap, Conor Gormley moves to full-back while Justin McMahon switches out to centre-back. The change looks to be designed to utilise McMahon’s height to combat towering Cork centre-forward Pearse O’Neill, although there had been speculation that McMahon’s older brother Joe was to be drafted back to the pivotal defensive spot having featured there recently in training.
While Gormley is named at full-back, it is likely that he will detail one of Cork’s corner-forward duo, Donnacha O’Connor and Daniel Goulding, with Ryan McMenamin picking up the other danger man. This would leave PJ Quinn, who had been under pressure to retain his place having withdrawn against Kildare, to keep tabs on Cork’s U21 star Colm O’Neill.
Meanwhile Mickey Harte has revealed that he has been hugely impressed with the attacking capabilities of Cork’s half-back line this summer, particularly the high-scoring John Miskella.
“Many teams have attacking half backs now and like to get forward, but not many have people who can actually clinically finish those runs and moves. There are plenty of players (in other teams) moving forward but are not getting scores that those runs probably deserve.
“But you see Cork now and John Miskella, who has something like 10 or 11 points scored, that’s not an accident and there is serious quality in that. That’s a serious consideration for us.”
Harte, who was speaking on Wednesday at an Ulster Bank promotion of the All-Ireland semi-final in Cookstown, refuted the popular opinion that Cork rely primarily on their physical conditioning and aerial ability to win games.
“That’s not what they are all about. They are big men but they are also pacy men and they are also good footballers. They have a lot of ingredients of a quality side and I have been saying that all week.
“They also have a blend of new and younger players coming from the U21s. They seem very confident, which is understandable when you win All-Irelands at U21 level. I know the confidence that gives to players so I am well aware of what that will bring to them.”
Aside from the threat of Cork’s half-back line, Tyrone boss Harte is wary of Cork’s aerial ability at kick outs and in general play.
“It is obvious that you don’t really want to be contesting the ball with a man who is six inches bigger than you up in the air. So when you have your own possession, you need to be trying to keep it at a better height for your own players.”
The most obvious difference between the current Tyrone and Cork teams is their record at Croke Park. Tyrone know what it takes to win semi-finals and finals with three All-Irelands since 2003, whereas Cork have lost four of their last five semi-finals. But Cork have clearly got to grips with Croke Park in the last two seasons under Conor Counihan, which suggests that the venue holds no more fears for them.
“They were losing to a decent side all those times (in semi-finals), it should be remembered. It wasn’t as if they were losing to a different variety of teams who were not up there with the very best. Kerry have proven what their worth is over the last seven or eight years.
“So Cork were meeting serious people when they were losing those games. They have now beaten them to win back-to-back Munster titles and they have pulled them back to make a couple of tough games in Croke Park last year. So the evidence is there that Cork have made progress on that front.”
TYRONE SF: P McConnell; PJ Quinn, C Gormley, R McMenamin; D Harte, Justin McMahon, P Jordan; K Hughes, E McGinley; B Dooher, S Cavanagh, Joe McMahon; M Penrose, S O’Neill, O Mulligan. Subs: J Curran, D Carlin, A Cassidy, C Cavanagh, C Gourley, C Holmes, C McCullagh, M McGee, B McGuigan, T McGuigan, R Mellon, R Mulgrew, Sean O’Neill, Shaun O’Neill, M Swift, G Devlin, N Gormley, J McAnulla.