GAA: Character and grit see Tyrone snatch draw at Cork

Cork's Andrew O'Sullivan and Ciaran McGinley of Tyrone. 'Mandatory Credit �INPHO/Ryan Byrne
Cork's Andrew O'Sullivan and Ciaran McGinley of Tyrone. 'Mandatory Credit �INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Tyrone showed admirable fight and determination to rescue a draw with fancied table-toppers Cork in Pairc Ui Rinn on Sunday afternoon.

The Red Hands had led by four points at the interval but, entering the final ten minutes, they found themselves four adrift, a goal from halftime substitute Colm O’Neill putting the Rebel County firmly in the driving seat.

Having collapsed in the second half to Kerry, Mickey Harte’s charges could well have done the same again; however, on this occasion, they dug in - aided by the returning Conor Gormley and Martin Penrose.

Points from Sean Cavanagh, Penrose and Niall Morgan helped narrow the gap before a late Ronan O’Neill free kick brought the sides level.

The drama wasn’t finished there, however, as Fintan Goold rattled the right upright deep into injury time, as Tyrone hung on for the draw.

Tyrone started well in the opening few minutes racing into a three point lead.

Shay McGuigan linked with Kyle Coney for the opener, before Peter Harte fired over a brilliant effort from distance with the outside of his left foot.

McGuigan was the provider again as he found Darren McCurry, the Edendork man scoring his first point of the game with a fine effort after four minutes.

Tyrone were brought back to earth with an almighty bump just seconds later as Paul Kerrigan ran untouched through the Tyrone defence to fire low past Niall Morgan to the back of his net.

Darren McCurry was showing well for Tyrone inside and he gave Tyrone a two point lead with a point from a free and then his third of the game with a stunning score from near the sideline.

The Cork men hit right back, Brian Hurley and John Hayes both on target.

The game was developing into an open contest with Tyrone looking dangerous in attack but vulnerable at the back, while Cork struggled to contain Kyle Coney and Darren McCurry.

Coney and Hurley traded points before the Cork man added his third point of the game with a point from play.

In the last fifteen minutes of the half, Tyrone stepped up a gear and outscored Cork 0-6 to 0-1 with Kyle Coney putting on an exhibition of point scoring from full forward.

Darren McCurry’s impact was to be limited after a heavy fall towards the end of the half, but it didn’t matter to Coney as he tortured Eoin Cadogan.

John O’Rourke and McCurry exchanged points before Coney went on his scoring free kicking three of the next four points including a brilliant effort from the left wing with the outside of the boot.

Tyrone were slow to get out of the blocks in the second period with O’Rourke firing over when he could well have goaled and then a Brian Hurley point.

Kyle Coney kicked another from play but only after McCurry had missed a 14 metre free kick from in front of the posts.

Cork then kicked 1-3 without reply, John Hayes, half time substitute Colm O’Neill and Hurley brought the sides level before O’Neill rifled high into the net past a helpless Niall Morgan.

Morgan closed the gap to two points with a free at the other end but further points from Colm O’Neill and Barry O’Driscoll left Tyrone in real trouble.

Mickey Harte then called in the reinforcements with Conor Gormley, Martin Penrose and Niall McKenna introduced to try and turn the tide.

Tyrone had struggled at midfield but Sean Cavanagh grew increasingly influential, while Gormley’s introduction gave Ronan McNamee the freedom to press forward, a role he appeared a great deal more comfortable in.

Ronan O’Neill could well have had a goal with 10 minutes remaining only for Paddy Kelly to make a stunning block, but Kyle Coney did close the gap just a moment later.

This was cancelled out with ease by Barry O’Driscoll as Cork appeared to be coasting to victory and the league semi-finals.

Tyrone’s chance appeared gone when Martin Penrose was denied by a stunning David Hanrahan save from close range, but they kept plugging on.

Niall Morgan and then Penrose pointed to close the gap to just two points but Cork looked to have tied things up when Michael Shields came forward to kick a point with three minutes remaining.

Quick points from Sean Cavanagh and Coney gave Tyrone a real chance as the clock ticked down before Ronan O’Neill showed no signs of nerves to score the equaliser in injury time.

Cork still had a chance to win the game but Fintan Goold’s effort came back of the post much to the relief of the travelling support and leave Tyrone still in with a real chance of a place in the National League semi-finals.