Owen Mulligan: There’s no way Cork can live with Tyrone

It’s time to put The Rebels to bed.


After Tyrone put Roscommon to the sword at headquarters last year, I thought there would be some sort of backlash from The Rossies.

It ended up being a comfortable win in the end, even if Roscommon did provide a few scares along the way. Only for Niall Morgan’s two point-blank saves, the scoreline could have been a whole lot different.

Tyrone always seemed in control though, and they found it a lot easier to pick off scores in the final third. When you meet one of the big teams everyone has to play well and that didn’t happen for Roscommon.

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Connor Cox was non-existent in the first half. Ronan McNamee was brilliant in defence for Tyrone and man-marked Cox everywhere he went.

Tyrone have conceded a goal in every Championship match to date and keeping a clean sheet was important for the backs, even though they rode their luck a few times.

Mattie Donnelly, Peter Harte and Cathal McShane were the standout performers. They are so important to Tyrone as we move closer to the business end of the Championship.

Peter Harte gets Tyrone ticking

Peter Harte is the key man for Tyrone. It is so vital to have him fully fit and suspension free.

There is no doubt that other teams realise this and if you can keep him quiet, you’ll go a long way to getting a result against The Red Hands.

The three black cards he got were all bad referee decisions too. Harte gets special attention every time he plays and refs should have a duty to protect all the best players in the game.

Harte controlled the game on Saturday pulling the strings and interlinking with McShane. He sees things before anyone else, leaving him one step ahead constantly. He committed in the tackle and helped his backline out on several occasions by getting in some last-ditch tackles.

Morgan to the rescue

Saturday’s game wasn’t the first time Niall Morgan has saved Tyrone this year. Against Derry and Donegal Morgan was called into action several times and came out on top.

He’s a brilliant shot-stopper and commanding on the high ball. He stands up right to the last minute, so the forward can’t throw a dummy against him.

The Tyrone defence has been carved open far too regularly and that’s not his fault. Just because Tyrone are tallying up big scores at the other end of the field, this goes unnoticed.

But, it’s critical for Tyrone that Morgan keeps the goals out.

Morgan is very vocal and it is plain to see the defenders need this sort of direction when they’re up against the top forwards in the game. He has a head start on other goalkeepers because of his ball-carrying attributes and his ability to pinpoint kick passes over 50 yards. This is key when breaking from defence to attack.

Tyrone are reasonably young at the back, so Morgan has to continue to provide them with his leadership qualities.

McShane in All-Star contention

Micky Harte took a huge chance in 2003 by moving the late Cormac McAnallen to full back from midfield and he has made a similar move with Cathal McShane.

McShane was a midfielder/half-forward last year and seemed lost in some games. Harte has pulled a masterstroke and by shifting McShane to full-forward, where he has proved to be hugely influential.

For years Tyrone have lacked a man that can win his own ball, both on the ground and aerially. With a strong physical presence and direct running at the edge of the square, McShane is now one of the most feared forwards in Ireland.

His vision to bring other players into the game has reaped rewards for Tyrone on the scoreboard, but his own finishing has also improved vastly from last year. We are looking at a possible Tyrone full-forward All-star if he keeps shining the way he is.

Rebels won’t put a cork in Tyrone

Cork have surprised everyone in this year’s Championship by giving Kerry their fill of it in the Munster final. Tyrone went to marking zonal against Donegal and were found out on the kick out, so they might have to go man-to-man to prevent the same thing happening against Cork.

Cork’s first-half performances have been very good, but they just come up short in the closing stages and run out of steam. Tyrone are in fantastic shape and in the last 15 minutes they can be cruel to their opponents, especially when Harte’s men open up.

Cork could be in for another long afternoon on Saturday.

On any given day Tyrone can beat anyone in the country and playing Cork will cause them no concern at all. Last year Tyrone stuffed Cork with fast, direct running and Croke Park suits how Tyrone play.

Cork will not be able to stick with the pace of Tyrone’s constant running and direct ball into the forwards.

Tyrone can get into the All-Ireland semis by beating Cork at the weekend and then they’ll have a practice match in Omagh against Dublin in two weeks’ time.

It is so important that Tyrone don’t take their eyes off the ball and get into a dog fight with Cork, that can lead to a slip-up. This is a massive game and complacency is not an option.

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