A come-from-behind second-half effort secured Tyrone their second win of the Super 8s series and, in the process, all but guaranteed themselves an All-Ireland semi-final berth.
With Cork ahead by 2-4 to 0-5 at the break, this All-Ireland quarter-final fixture was turned on its head during a four-minute period early in the second-half when Mickey Harte’s side kicked 2-2 without reply to turn a six-point deficit into a two-point lead.
Their opening goal arrived on 43 minutes, Pádraig Hampsey, one of three half-time substitutions, and Michael McKernan supplying Cathal McShane who palmed to the net. That left the scoreboard reading 2-5 to 1-6. A Peter Harte free subsequently reduced the deficit to the minimum and the northerners hit the front for the first time in proceedings on 46 minutes, Harte dispatching from the penalty spot after Mattie Taylor pushed Frank Burks.
The Rebels, though rattled by this Tyrone burst, didn’t drop the head and restored parity on the hour mark following three-in-a-row from sub Michael Hurley. But Cork, rather crucially, were neither able to keep pace with their opponents by this juncture nor creep back in front.
Between the 61st and 70th minute, the more experienced Tyrone side outscored a tiring Cork by 0-5 to 0-1 to establish a four-point gap. Mattie Donnelly and Tiarnan McCann both contributed during this period as all Tyrone's leaders came to the fore.
Points from John O'Rourke and Hurley did halve the gap but Cork now required a goal and they were unable to fashion one.
Unless Roscommon shock Dublin, Cork's hopes of reaching the last four are over.
Cork were rewarded for a first-half where they married patience and the penetrative swashbuckling style of recent games to eke out a 2-4 to 0-5 interval lead.
One of the main questions prior to throw-in was whether the quick, direct ball which fed into Cork’s 11-65 championship total would flounder in the face of Tyrone’s counter-attacking approach, but the incredibly small crowd in for the opening game of this Super 8 double-header had their answer within 13 seconds. With Cork having won the throw-in, Mattie Taylor fed Brian Hurley and although he had the ball momentarily knocked away from him by Ronan McNamee, the full-forward quickly retrieved possession and offloaded to the onrushing Ian Maguire. The Cork captain galloped towards Niall Morgan’s goal, passed to Luke Connolly, and the Nemo man duly fired the ball home.
It was beyond the dream start for Ronan McCarthy’s charges and while they were so intelligent in their use of possession when reaching the Tyrone 45-metre line for the remainder of the half, their defensive effort was equally impressive.
Connolly was to be found close to his own 20-metre line cutting out a Frank Burns pass at one juncture, with Ian Maguire similarly intercepting a Conor Meyler delivery later in the half. Highlighting the pressure being applied on the men in white shirts as they came within shooting distance of Mark White’s goal, as well as the screening of Tyrone’s main marksmen, were the separate instances of Ronan McNamee and Rory Brennan, two members of the Tyrone full-back line, both coughing up possession inside the scoring zone.
Cork, having held their opponents to just two points in the opening 20 minutes and having held them scoreless for 16 minutes of that period, had their second goal on 19 minutes, James Loughrey, introduced early for the injured Tomás Clancy, finding the top left corner after Rúairi Deane superbly broke the line to create the opportunity.
The second goal put Cork 2-3 to 0-2 ahead and there were plenty other examples of Cork breaching Tyrone’s defensive wall, such as Kevin O’Driscoll putting through Mattie Taylor point.
Cork’s lead again stretched to seven points on 26 minutes, 2-4 to 0-3, but a Peter Harte brace thereafter brought last year’s All-Ireland finalists back within five at half-time. They put the squeeze on in the second-half to grind out the result. Not massively pretty, but job done nonetheless.
P Harte (1-6, 1-0 pen, 0-3 frees); C McShane (1-5, 0-4 frees); M Donnelly (0-2); P Hampsey, T McCann (0-1 each).
L Connolly (1-3, 0-2 frees); M Hurley (0-4); J Loughrey (1-0); M Collins (0-2, 0-2 each); M Taylor, S White, J O’Rourke (0-1 each)
N Morgan; HP McGeary, R McNamee, R Brennan; M McKernan, K McGeary, F Burns; C Cavanagh, B Kennedy; M Donnelly, N Sludden, P Harte; D McCurry, C McShane, C Meyler.
M Cassidy for McGeary, R Donnelly for McCurry, P Hampsey for Kennedy (all-time); T McCann for McKernan (52); C McAliskey for Sludden (56).
M White; S Cronin; Thomas Clancy, K Flahive; L O’Donovan, Tomás Clancy, M Taylor; I Maguire, K O’Hanlon; R Deane, S White, K O’Driscoll; L Connolly, B Hurley, M Collins.
J Loughrey for Tomás Clancy (12 mins, inj); P Kerrigan for Hurley (48); M Hurley for Collins (52); S Powter for S White, J O’Rourke for O’Driscoll (both 58); S Sherlock for Cronin (67).
M Deegan (Laois)