THE COUNTY is already daydreaming about the razzmatazz of an unprecedented championship clash at Healy Park against Dublin, but Mickey Harte would prefer to operate on terra firma.
The Red Hands will unlock the right to host the Dubs in their second ‘super eight’ match if they account for Cork in Saturday’s Round Four qualifier– a mouth-watering prospect which would generate a massive degree of interest across the country.
When asked the question, Mickey Harte is open and honest about the potential prize on offer, but also recognises that they can’t afford to slip off the gas at Portlaoise this Saturday in their fourth match in five weeks.
“That would be very good to have that opportunity, but nothing is there unless we perform whenever we play Cork. We know that this is a real big prize, but we have been one step away from big prizes before, and haven’t managed to make it. So we know that we have to keep our feet firmly on the ground, and we need to improve our performance week on week.
“To some extend we’re doing that, in spells, but I think we need more consistency across the 70-odd minutes than we have had to date.”
This is only the third ever championship meeting between these two sides, with Cork coming up trumps in All-Ireland semi-finals in 1973 and 2009.
There’s been an almost wholesale transition on both teams since the latter match, but Harte believes it will give Ronan McCarthy’s side confidence as well.
“Traditionally, over the past decade or more, they have a very good record against us, and we have to be mindful of that.
“We always found them a difficult team to deal with, so we have to be very conscious of our record against them. It wouldn’t be pretty, and we know that this is the all-important game.
“Cork always feel good meeting Tyrone. I think they feel Tyrone is a team that they can manage, that they can handle.
“The last time we met in championship was 2009 in an All-Ireland semi-final, and we were going very good at that time, on the back of the previous year’s All-Ireland.
“They put us to the sword that day, and we still had a lot of our team of the noughties still there, and they didn’t fear us in any shape or form.
“I think that will give them confidence. They don’t see Tyrone as a team that they can’t handle, and that’s the challenge for us – we have to meet them knowing that that’s’ their mentality, and knowing that we have to be really good to overcome that.”
On the injury front, Lee Brennan is unlikely to play any part in proceedings but there’s a more positive outlook for Mark Bradley, who has likewise missed the entirety of the qualifier series to date with a leg injury.
FULL PREVIEW IN THIS WEEK’S ULSTER HERALD