Allianz FL Division 1
Tyrone v Cork
Tomorrow: Healy Park, 2.30pm
But for a traffic jam, Tyrone may have to go back almost 10 years to the last time they beat Cork in Omagh.
In 2013, Cork starved Tyrone, giving them just eight points. Three years previous, Cork had 16 points to the home side’s 12 scores. Only thing was three of those Tyrone efforts were goals.
All of them came against the run of play and Cork were in a fluster after rushing to Healy Park.
“We were going through the town and there was a Mass on and we got stuck,” remembers Paudie Kissane, who played in both games there.
Healy Park has been no castle of doom for Cork. Nor most teams travelling from the south, it would seem. “There would be no Ulster venue that would be a bogey venue,” says Kissane.
“Whether you were playing in Donegal, Tyrone, Armagh or Monaghan you knew you were going to get an intense game. Once you were prepared for that, you were fine.”
It’s fair to say Tyrone don’t mind playing away from it either. When they reached the 2013 All-Ireland semi-final, all of their victories in the qualifiers were on the road.
Supporters themselves have bemoaned the erosion of what had been a fortress for the county in the early 2000s. It just doesn’t scream the same intimidation anymore.
As Sean Cavanagh admitted last year: “It’s nice in Omagh to have the home support and it’s great when you have 8,000 or 9,000 people cheering for you. But in terms of the surface, some of the games we go away to play, allows us to play a wee bit more football and that suits us better.”
That point begs the questions — are Tyrone as interested as they used to be playing much football? Since their defeat to Monaghan in Healy Park last month, they have adopted a rearguard action.
Kissane was part of a Cork defence that didn’t concede a goal in any of their four championship games three years ago and was part of the back-line in 2012 that went nine games conceding just two goals. He points out conditions at this time of year are conducive to taking less risks and blocking out the other team.
“This time of year, when the weather isn’t good it makes sense to get men behind the ball. It suits the defending team and what you’ll find is the scoring will be lower than it would be in the summer.
“Mickey Harte has been around a long time and probably realised that what they did last year wasn’t good enough. He looked at the defensive game and wanted to see if it suited his side. It’s like any sport, you want to cut off space when you don’t have the ball and create it when you do. It might be swinging too defensively for my liking but it’s hardly surprising when it’s all about results.”
Currently doing a masters as well as running his athletic development and performance company, PK Performance, Kissane was part of the Clare management team that made life so difficult for Kerry with a sweeper system last June. In that 2012 season when they played seven rounds coughing up one goal, Conor Counihan’s Cork experimented with the same tactic with relative success.
He can see Brian Cuthbert deploying such a measure during the summer but with variances depending on who is the opposition.
“Against Tyrone in 2013, we would have implemented a more defensive strategy but it suited us too from an attacking point of view as we were an athletic team at the time. We were attacking the space as well. They went at Sligo and Mayo last year with more of a defensive system to be safer at the back and they’re carrying it on now. They weren’t that defensive against Kerry but was that on purpose? I don’t know either teams’ reasons for that. Were they just shadow-boxing and not wanting to show what they will do in the summer? I don’t know.
“You can’t get carried away with that. Cork did play well and put together some fine scores but Kerry’s work-rate at times wasn’t what was desired and that’s the thing about Kerry: the tackling of their forwards was great last year. Cork could be looking for a plan A, B and C or they could be determined to stick with the defensive system. When I say defensive it’s not necessarily to do with defending. Cork have the mobility to get back to be defensive just as they have it to get forward.”
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