Cumann Lúthchleas Gael Uladh

Cork beat Tyrone

August 23rd, 2009

tyrone-cork-aifc-sf2009.jpgAll-Ireland SFC Semi-Final:
Cork 1-13 Tyrone 0-11

Cork overcame the first-half dismissal of Alan O’Connor to dethrone champions Tyrone with a superb performance in an absorbing All Ireland semi-final at Croke Park on Sunday.

In the end, Conor Counihan’s impressive charges had five points to spare, but they could easily have won by a far greater margin but for some wayward shooting in the final quarter, such was their complete dominance of the game.

Their profligacy was the only sour note on an otherwise seminal day for this Cork team, which will face either Kerry or Meath in next month’s final. They will approach the final with huge confidence after squeezing the life out of the seemingly unbeatable Red Hands.

Cork were on top all over the pitch, but their defence was all but impregnable throughout a tight second half. Tyrone’s forwards continually overturned valuable possession, with attack after attack breaking down as Cork broke at pace to expose the Ulster champions’ wearying legs.

Indeed, it appeared at times that Cork were playing with the extra man such was the energy they approached the final quarter. Alan O’Connor had been sent off in the 30th minute at a time when Tyrone were coming back into the game after an horrendous start.

The St Colm’s midfielder, who had earlier been booked for a late challenge, was given his marching orders by referee John Bannon for a clumsy but seemingly innocuous tackle on Owen Mulligan. However, the sending off appeared to spur on the Rebels to even further heroics and Tyrone made little use of the extra man, Sean Cavanagh, who played a somewhat defensive role when he came on as a half-time sub for Tommy McGuigan.

Cavanagh was unable to start after struggling with a stomach bug overnight and his arrival at the break failed to wake Tyrone from their slumber. From the first minute, Cork were first to every ball and all-action running style Mickey Harte has fostered in recent years was easily countered by the Rebels, who competed in the physical stakes throughout and came out on top.

Cork went on the rampage from the off and snaffled an early goal when Daniel Goulding crashed the ball past Pascal McConnell after just eight minutes. However, they went in just five points up at the break – 1-9 to 0-7 – after Tyrone had managed to get back into the game for a brief period towards the end of the half.

But Cork had dominated the game, especially in the vital middle third, where Enda McGinley’s performance betrayed the nearly two months he missed through injury. The lack of any primary possession meant the Tyrone attack was starved of any possession and key forwards Stephen O’Neill and Owen Mulligan played peripheral roles at time.

Cork appeared fired up by Alan O’Connor’s sending off and they upped the physical stakes after the break. For a ten-minute period, they allowed Tyrone to have the ball, but they continually repelled them with crafty defending and thundering tackles.

The closest Tyrone came to pegging Cork back was when they reduced the margin to four points in the 41st minute, but the Rebels quickly hit back and managed to keep the champions at arm’s length for the rest of the game.

Cork began a little tentatively as Donncha O’ Connor drove an early free wide and then John Miskella was similarly wayward with a long-range shot minutes later.

Ryan McMenamin was handed the unenviable task of marking Pearse O’Neill, but he abandoned his defensive duties in the third minute when he scorched forward from centre-back to land the opening score of the game.

Cork were level a minute later when Paul Kerrigan, as is his wont, skinned Davy Harte for pace on the outside and fisted the ball over the bar from a tight angle.

Again, Tyrone edged ahead when Harte found Stephen O’Neill with a long ball and the Former Footballer of the year found his range from out on the left.

Bu the pattern of the first half changed irrevocably after eight minutes when Cork stole in for a deserved goal. Graham Canty, the Cork captain, barrelled forward and fed in Colm O’Neill, but his goalbound shot was blocked by PJ Quinn. The ball fell kindly for Goulding, whose emphatic shot crashed to the roof of the net.

The goal visibly lifted the Rebels and they began to impose their counter-attacking style on the game. Tyrone were struggling in the middle third and Cork took advantage clinically to kick the next four points without reply.

Pearse O’Neill, who was getting the better off McMenamin in the opening exchanges, found space in the inside forward line and opted to fist the ball over the bar when he might have opted to go for goal. O’Connor landed two further frees and Colm O’Neill hit his first of the day as Cork raced into a 1-6 to 0-2 lead.

Kevin Hughes stemmed the Rebel tide when he found acres of room in the middle of the field and raced through the heart of the Cork attack to hit the Red Hands’ first point for 11 minutes.

But Goulding reasserted Cork’s dominance when he robbed full-back Conor Gormley of the ball and slotted neatly over. Colm O’Neill then added a stunning point, following some patient build-up play, to leave Cork eight points up and coasting.

Inevitably, the Tyrone response came and they finally seemed to emerge from their stupor as they hit four of the next five points. There were encouraging signs as Brian Dooher started to exert his influence on the game after Miskella had tracked him well over the first 30 minutes. Dooher was the architect of a fine Tyrone score on 28 minutes, his clever low ball finding Stephen O’Neill, who stole past Anthony Lynch and chipped over the bar. O’Neill added a free and Tyrone trailed by 1-9 to 0-7 at the interval.

Tyrone needed to come at Cork from the start, but the Rebels nearly put the game beyond any doubt at the start of the second half. Pearse O’Neill’s long-range shot appeared to be drifting wide until it struck a post and fell kindly for Paul Kerrigan, who fumbled the ball when he looked destined to hammer home the killer blow.

The second half played out somewhat unexpectedly as 14-man Cork easily repelled their opponents. Strangely, Cavanagh was deployed in a deep-lying role and he failed to make any major contribution after his arrival.

The game spilled over after 54 minutes – at a time when Cork had stretched their lead out to six points again – when Pearse O’Neill appeared to catch Brian McGuigan with a late challenge. Cork showed no signs of weakness and the outcome at that point looked inevitable. Indeed, it seemed like a telling moment when Mickey Harte opted to haul Brian Dooher ashore after just 55 minutes.

In the final quarter, Cork hit an alarming number of wides and could have been made to pay when Cavanagh rattled the post in injury time. However, it was not to be Tyrone’s day and Cork held on for a five-point win.

Tyrone: P McConnell, PJ Quinn, C Gormley, R McMenamin (0-01), D Harte (0-01), Justin McMahon, P Jordan (0-1), K Hughes (0-1), E McGinley, B Dooher, T McGuigan, Joe McMahon, M Penrose (0-1), S O’Neill (0-4, 0-1f), O Mulligan (0-2, 0-2f).

Subs: B McGuigan for T McGuigan (HT), S Cavanagh for McGinley ’46, Sean O’Neill for Gormley ’54, A Cassidy for Dooher ’54, C McCullagh for Joe McMahon ’64.

Cork: A Quirke, R Carey, M Shields, A Lynch, N O’Leary, G Canty, J Miskella, A O’Connor (0-1), N Murphy, P Kerrigan (0-1), P O’Neill (0-1), P Kelly (0-2), D Goulding (1-1), C O’Neill (0-2), D O’Connor (0-4, 0-3f).

Subs: F Goold (0-1) for Goulding ’58, J Hayes for Kerrigan ’60, M Cussen for O’Connor ’66, K O’Connor for O’Leary ’69, Cadogan for Miskella ’71

Referee: J Bannon (Longford).

Attendance: 52, 492

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