Cork and Tyrone on journeys of discovery

After Cork’s 16-point shellacking at the hands of Tyrone in O’Moore Park 12 months ago, Ronan McCarthy stood defiantly in the tunnel and declared he knew the way forward.

Cork and Tyrone on journeys of discovery

After Cork’s 16-point shellacking at the hands of Tyrone in O’Moore Park 12 months ago, Ronan McCarthy stood defiantly in the tunnel and declared he knew the way forward.

“I have my own ideas on it that I’m not going sharing now,” he told the media after speaking to county chairperson Tracey Kennedy and then secretary Frank Murphy.

“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.”

For Mickey Harte, the Portlaoise game wasn’t just any qualifier but grabbing a chance to be “a small bit of history” in making the inaugural Super 8.

From there, they drove to an All-Ireland final but for both set-ups there have taken metaphorically long journeys since that last meeting.


Player power?

Much has been said about the players getting together and insisting the best way forward was aggressive attacking football.

That certainly didn’t tally with what was being preached prior to and during the League. As Paul Kerrigan said of the pre-Christmas approach: “There has been a big focus on being more sound defensively since what happened in the Kerry and Tyrone games.

"That’s our base the first couple of months and we take it from there. If you follow the lead of Monaghan or Galway, they got their house in order at the back and expanded afterwards.

"To play like that and expand on your tactics, you need to up your fitness and we’re aiming to do that too.”

Cork’s style now is much more in harmony with their lineage.

Having said that...

As much as the team’s philosophy, McCarthy would have felt the look of his defence needed to be altered too. Only James Loughrey survives from last year’s nadir. The experienced Clancys have been part of the rebuild and it was only going to be a question of when Kevin Flahive was going to become a fixture in the rearguard - he actually began last year’s Munster final as did Fermoy’s Tomás Clancy.

If Cork were all about defence then only one of Liam O’Donovan and Matthew Taylor might make the team but the attacking vibrancy the pair bring to their roles has made the absence of the dynamic Seán Powter felt that little bit less.

Seán White helping to fill in the gaps they leave behind gives them the licence their natural play craves.

The Castlehaven effect

In terms of the Cork attack, little has changed personnel-wise since that clash with Tyrone. However, there have been redeployments with Luke Connolly moving out to make plays and Mark Collins playing closer to Brian Hurley. Similar to Tyrone, McCarthy has spearheaded his attack with players who can make the ball stick - “I think a blind man can see we work well, we know each other’s runs,” said Hurley.



Of all the analysis done on Tyrone since Harte moved Cathal McShane and at times Mattie Donnelly closer to goal earlier this season, the most realistic has been provided by Oisín McConville.

The former Armagh star cast doubt on just how offensive they were made out to be particularly during the League: “They’ve just moved a bit of personnel around, as Mickey Harte has done regularly throughout the course of his Tyrone senior managerial career.

“They remain focused on the same basics and they aren’t getting more players ahead of the ball.

But what they are doing is moving the ball a lot quicker and it’s not always through the foot.

Harte knows Tyrone need almost everything done at speed to beat Dublin but the problem for them this year has been how slow they become in the final third.


As O’Donovan and Taylor have been the tyros for Cork this summer, Michael Cassidy is the new face in the Tyrone rearguard.

Cassidy, 24, has been in the panel for three years but only made his Championship debut in May. Fellow defender Rory Brennan has been a squad member for several years now but is enjoying his longest unbroken spell as a starter.

In the absence of retired Cathal McCarron and injured Pádraig Hampsey, they have been holding their own although Hampsey came off the bench for Cassidy against Roscommon.

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