Tyrone 0-8 Cork 0-14
Cork will host Donegal in Páirc Uí Rinn next Saturday but it would be hard to imagine an objection winging its way to Croke Park were the fixture to be rerouted to Ballybofey on the evidence of the last two weekends.
Twice now, Conor Counihan’s side have made the long coach trip north and on both occasions have motored homewards with two points stowed in the boot. This latest shopping trip was, however, far more profitable.
Their victory on the road against Down seven days earlier would have done Dick Turpin proud but this was a more controlled and emphatic success and one which brought Tyrone’s unbeaten run of eight wins in eight games to an abrupt end.
It is a win which continues a remarkable turnaround for a side that made for Newry eight days ago fearing for their survival in Division 1 but which now find themselves a live contender for a semi-final slot and a possible shot at a fourth straight title.
Their swift elevation up the league table after two opening defeats will please Counihan but of more importance yesterday was the performance — a marked improvement from Newry.
Aidan Walsh provided a tour de force that day but, while the Kanturk man sparkled again here, so too did a glut of others.
Counihan had challenged his lads to match Walsh’s example in the wake of that one-point success and, by God, did they. And more. This was Cork as we have come to know them: a well-oiled, 15-man machine.
The visitors, as is their wont, made two late changes to the team named midweek, with Paudie Kissane replacing Eoin O’Mahony at the back and Barry O’Driscoll slipping in for Donncha O’Connor at corner-forward.
Tyrone stuck with the five flagged alterations to the side that overcame Donegal the week before but if that was Mickey Harte’s way of injecting some freshness into his lads then it failed.
The home side never raised their game to anything like the levels they did for the All-Ireland champions and, while Harte spoke of the draining nature of that previous engagement, he gave ample credit to Cork, too.
The Munster side’s hunger for work was epitomised by Mark Collins, who wore the No 11 jersey. He started at wing-forward and roamed about the entire pitch like a travelling salesman looking for employment.
Walsh and Graham Canty anchored everything in the midfield and on this evidence it may well be a partnership that survives the experimental league phase.
That non-stop energy and graft ensured a full-back line which suffered badly at Down’s hands was afforded far more support, so much so that Michael Shields and Eoin Cadogan were frequent visitors to the opposing half.
With Colm O’Neill and Paul Kerrigan excelling in that sector, Cork had more than enough going for them and even the loss of Ciarán Sheehan with a shoulder injury was lessened by the introduction of Donncha O’Connor in his stead.
Tyrone’s day was typified by their dead ball difficulties. Goalkeeper Niall Morgan has excelled in that department this season but shot three dreadful efforts before being relieved of those duties in the second period.
It took the Ulster side some time to reappear after the interval, and it soon became apparent why with Harte indulging in a handful of tactical switches and one substitution.
It mattered little.
Cork had taken the break leading 0-8 to 0-4. It was a similar storyline in part two with Cork hitting their straps early before they became a tad careless midway through that half, with O’Connor spurning Kerrigan outside him when the latter faced an open goal.
Unfortunately for Tyrone, they were just as guilty in that department and ended the contest with close to 20 unsuccessful efforts on goal.
Cork, for their part, would count at least a dozen of their own but their use of possession was ultimately much more intelligent on a day when snow gave way to sunshine and back again, all of it accompanied by a bitter and swirling wind.
Scorers for Tyrone: R O’Neill 0-2 (1f), C Gormley (f), Joe McMahon (f), S Cavanagh (f), K Coney, S O’Neill, M Penrose 0-1 each.
Scorers for Cork: C O’Neill 0-5 (3f), A Walsh 0-3, D O’Connor, P Kerrigan 0-2 each, M Collins (f), B O’Driscoll 0-1 each.
Subs for Tyrone: A Cassidy for McNiece (35), Mark Donnelly for R O’Neill (54), C McGinley for McKenna (54), M Penrose for Coney (59).
Subs for Cork: D O’Connor for Sheehan (16), J McLoughlin for O’Sullivan (35), C O’Driscoll for B O’Driscoll (54), L Shorten for Goold (62), A O’Sullivan for O’Connor (71).
Referee: C Reilly (Meath).
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