'We can be feeling sorry for ourselves for 10 minutes' - Cork's challenge, Tyrone's revival

'we can be feeling sorry for ourselves for 10 minutes' - cork's challenge, tyrone's revival

Cork's Ruairi Deane and Tyrone's Mattie Donnelly after the game.

1. A game-changing third quarter

A lesson in game management in Tullamore, proof why Tyrone are a seasoned Division 1 team that can still call on stars from that 2021 All-Ireland win, and how Division 2 regulars Cork still have a bit to go before delivering knockout punches in these games.

At half-time this one was up for grabs. The opening period was full of bright, enterprising football. Cork would have regretted being only a point ahead. They scored ten points but were wasteful with six other shots and misplaced a couple of attacking passes when Tyrone were opened up. That profligacy continued straight after the break, Paul Walsh charging clear before drilling his shot wide of the post.

There may have been a suggestion Walsh was pushed while executing his kick, but even at that early stage of the second half the miss appeared costly for Cork. Goals were a rich energy source for them against Donegal as they rattled the net three times, the blank in that regard here proved an issue.

Cork’s misfortune was compounded by Chris Óg Jones suffering a black card, another inaccurate kick pass had failed to find him after a turnover led John Cleary’s side into a position to create an overlap. And then by the 47th minute they were hit with another setback as Tyrone, who recorded nine points from 11 first-half attempts, illustrated their efficiency again. Ben Cullen fired home the chance he created along with Ciarán Daly. It was a game-changing third quarter.

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2. The challenge now facing Cork

The happy vibes emanating from the Cork camp a fortnight ago had faded as they digested the outcome yesterday in Tullamore. The victory over Donegal felt like a significant moment in the life cycle of this team, but despite having full points from two games, they have wound up third in the group after playing three times.

That’s the fine margins at play. It’s the same scenario as last year where Cork have won twice and lost once, locked in a three-way battle on four points. But the mood music shifts between second and third place, the latter position meaning Cork are left with a tricky trip on the road next weekend.

Ultimately Cork’s failure to win heavily against Clare counted against them, in contrast to the beatings Tyrone and Donegal in turn handed out. The regrets at not getting the job done yesterday will linger but have to be quickly parked as they face the challenge of getting right for whatever opponents are thrown at them in Monday’s draw.

“At the start of the league we were three games down and our next game was away in Fermanagh and you know it was do or die,” says manager John Cleary.

“The guys galvanised and got going and that’s what we intend to do for this week. I said to the lads inside there we can be feeling sorry for ourselves now for ten minutes but championship week starts right now.”

3. Tyrone’s turnaround

As Tyrone joined the crowds heading away from Ballybofey three weeks ago, they had much to mull over. Another setback in a patchy championship, as they suffered a second defeat of the season against Donegal. Whereas in Ulster the teams had gone to the wire at Celtic Park with extra-time required, this loss was more emphatic. Trailing by a point at the break, Tyrone were outscored 0-11 to 0-5 thereafter as their form collapsed.

It left them facing an uphill struggle, particularly when Cork took down Donegal, but the turnaround to bag second place in their group is a highly satisfactory response. After an initial sticky phase against Clare, they stretched ahead considerably in the second half in Omagh.

And it was a similarly controlled second-half showing against Munster opponents yesterday that propelled them to victory. The Canavan brothers punched holes in the Cork defence at will, while Niall Morgan and Mattie Donnelly masterfully dictated the pace of the second-half play. A home tie next weekend is their reward as the knockout action commences.

‘Obviously a home tie is extremely importan,” remarked Brian Dooher.

“Everybody wants to play on their home pitch and to have everything that comes with that. But it was just about getting a performance, getting a win and moving on to the next step.’

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