TWO League Divisions may well now separate Tyrone from Cork, but the Red Hands will be wary of a Rebel ambush when they make the trip to Croke Park.
It’s phase two of the All-Ireland Quarter Final ‘Super eights’ and the general expectation prior to last weekend was that Tyrone would confidently dispose of the defeated Munster finalists.
Now, though, all that has changed and forewarned could well be very much forearmed for Mickey Harte and the players as they bid for a sixth All-Ireland semi-final appearance this decade.
A more guarded approach was always anticipated from within the Tyrone camp, and their cautious attitude has been increased by Cork’s determined display against Dublin in phase one on Saturday evening last.
The five-in-a-row chasing champions only pulled away thanks to three goals in the final 10 minutes or so. Suffice to say, that Tyrone will be wary of facing the resurgent Rebels and are by no means expecting a repeat of last year when they trounced them in the final round of the All-Ireland Qualifiers.
No wonder, then, that Mickey Harte is talking up the likelihood of a stiff challenge.
“Cork have very good footballers and their league position is in no way a reflection of the quality that they possess,” he said.
“This is their shot at redemption, they’re in the last eight and they’ll want to do very well. I would say they’d reckon they can take our scalp, just as much as we believe we could take theirs.”
Leaving aside 2018 in Portlaoise, past history also suggests that Cork will prove to be an extremely difficult nut to crack for the Tyrone class of 2019.
Older fans will remember 1973 and a 5-10 to 2-4 drubbing in the All-Ireland semi-final. Then, there was the 1-13 to 0-11 defeat in the 2009 All-Ireland semi-final, in a game that Tyrone entered as reigning All-Ireland champions and optimistic about retaining the Sam Maguire.
Meetings in the National League have also highlighted that last year’s result was, perhaps, a one-off and won’t be repeated when they meet for the second consecutive season in the opening tie at Croke Park on Saturday evening.
It’s a point acknowledged by the team manager, who will be well aware of both previous championship defeats against Cork.
“Last year was one of those days when we hit a really hot spot and got a few goals early on,” he added.
“When you get goals and momentum like that, it’s very demoralising on the opposition. So the longer the game went on, the more we ticked off scores and it was deal done.”
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