Mickey Harte wary of Cork testing Tyrone’s qualifier record
‘I think they feel Tyrone is a team that they can manage, that they can handle’
Tyrone have won 88 per cent of their All-Ireland qualifiers since the latter were introduced in 2001. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
As self-biased as it might sound, Mickey Harte’s claim that Tyrone got “as difficult a draw as we could have got” is not entirely without merit. In facing Cork, the beaten Munster football finalists, in their round four football qualifier there is some history of the backlash which Harte refers to.
Only not much; last year, just one of the four beaten provincial finalists (Galway) managed to win their fourth round qualifier; the other three (Kildare, Cork and Down) all lost. The year before, 2016, just two out of the four beaten finalists won at the same round four stage.
What Tyrone also bring to O’Moore Park in Portlaoise on Saturday evening is a football qualifier record like no other: only Kerry, who have never lost a qualifier, and Dublin, who have only lost one, boast a higher percentage of wins, but Tyrone have played far more games (see panel), their winning record now standing at 88 per cent, the latest of which came in last Saturday’s victory over Cavan.
Since the football qualifiers were first introduced, in 2001, Tyrone have also won two of their three All-Irelands under Harte through the so-called back door, in 2005 and again in 2008. Tyrone’s current winning record of 88 per cent comes from 27 wins and only four loses.
With a place in the new Super-8 quarter-final also at stake, no wonder Harte is talking up a big performance from Cork, even though Ronan McCarthy’s team are coming off the 3-18 to 2-4 Munster final defeat, their biggest loss to Kerry in 80 years.
“Maybe that’s where the sting in the tail is for us, that they will want to kick back with something to raise the standard up to what they know they’re capable of playing,” said Harte. “And if they do that, I think it will take a really good performance to beat them.”
Cork did offer some potential with their 1-17 to 0-9 win over Tipperary in the Munster semi-final. “We would have to look more at what they did against Tipperary than what they did against Kerry,” added Harte. “They didn’t do themselves justice against Kerry in the final, whereas they had very good form against Tipperary, and we know that Tipperary are no bad team either. So we have to be on our guard.
“There was going to be no easy draw at this stage. If you look at the difficulty factor, I think we have got as difficult a one as we could have got.
“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.”
Actually, it’s only their third ever championship meeting, and Cork have won the previous two. They beat Tyrone 5-10 to 2-4 in the 1973 All-Ireland semi-final and 1-13 to 0-11 in the 2009 All-Ireland semi-final, before going on to lose to Kerry.
“They don’t see Tyrone as a team that they can’t handle,” said Harte, 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.”
Whoever emerges on Saturday evening will be part of the Group Two Super-8 side, with Donegal, Dublin and Roscommon/Armagh; in Group One will be Kerry, Galway, Fermanagh/Kildare, and Laois/Monaghan.
There had been some speculation the Donegal County Board were requesting their opening game against Dublin be fixed for Clones, rather than Croke Park, given Dublin will also have ‘home’ advantage for the last game against Roscommon; on consideration, and confirmation those opening round games were fixed for Croke Park under rule, Donegal will be making the trip to Croke Park, that game now confirmed for the Saturday evening, July 14th, at 7.0pm
Football qualifiers – top 5 winning records:
Kerry: 100% W11, L0
Dublin: 90% W9, L1
Tyrone: 88% W27, L4
Donegal: 74%, W20, L7
Mayo: 67% W13, L6