Posted by Shane Stapleton

Tyrone perhaps relied too heavily on one man when beating Meath while Cork need to find their best XV

7 July 2013 Bryan MentonIf Kildare couldn’t beat Tyrone on their own field, it’s hard to know why there was an expectation that Meath could do so.

That Mick O’Dowd’s side pushed the Red Hands for so long and, with a little bit more experience, might have sprung a surprise might simply point to shortcomings of the Ulster side. For all the class of Sean Cavanagh and the proven score-taking ability of full-forward Stephen O’Neill, Tyrone seemed a little disjointed against the Royals.

The spine of their defence looks rather exposed at times and there was an inexplicable moment midway through the second half when centre-back Peter Harte fed full-back Conor Clarke for a missed scoring chance. Meanwhile at the other end, the Red Hands had nobody at home.

Harte is a very good football but it’s worth raising the question of whether the best is being gotten out of Errigal Ciaran man. Will bigger teams drive through him and his hallway later this summer, and is his skill being missed further up the field.

We’ll certainly note that classy footballers such as Karl Lacey — who missed Donegal’s win over Laois through injury — excel at number six but then the All-Ireland champions have an abundance of class upfront. Tyrone have some good players, a few great and some potential — but not as many with the proven quality of Michael Murphy, Colm McFadden and Patrick McBrearty.

Harte is certainly capable of playing in many positions, we just wonder are the Red Hands too open. On many occasions against Meath, he had wandered upfield in search of the ball and the gaps at the back were glaring.

The manner in which Eamonn Wallace scythed through for his early goal may also serve as a warning sign for manager Mickey Harte. Tyrone are moving along nicely, but it’s hard to see them doing what they did in 2008: winning the All-Ireland from the first round of the qualifiers.

If any man can drag them there, it’s Sean Cavanagh. Meath initially did a great job of keeping him on his left foot but, soon enough, the Moy man was shaking and baking off his right. In the first half alone, he fired over three frees and two bombs from open play. In many ways, he was fighting a lone battle in attack.

But Darren McCurry stood up as the game wore on, and the likes of Colm Cavanagh caught some fantastic high ball in the second half when the pressure was on. O’Neill too, before his late red card, fought for every scrap against the crawling shadow that was Kevin O’Reilly.

We mentioned experience as being costly for Meath but some of their more seasoned players made errors when they simply should have known better.

Mickey Burke provides great energy at the back but twice in the first half he gave away silly frees that were converted. Later in that period, he went on a forage up the right wing, lost the ball, and fouled his man — Tyrone countered from there and scored. These were little moments with a tangible cost.

There was some surprise that Joe Sheridan was named in the team and his input outside of batting down kickouts was minimal. The introduction of Brian Farrell in his place did little to change matters either. Of course, the overriding issue is that half of Meath’s forward line struggled to get into scoring positions with Damien Carroll, Sheridan and Graham Reilly all drawing blanks — the latter on whom some many hopes were pinned. 

Wallace was the only Meath man to score from play in the second half and even if he fired a couple of errant shots, he was one of the few finding the right positions. Still, it’s been a year of relocating pride for the Royals, and they’ve done that and more.

Cork will meet Dublin in the quarter-finals after beating Galway by the minimum on Saturday. This being the same Tribe that were hammered to the tune of 17 points by Mayo, scraped past Tipperary and Waterford at home, and beat a naïve Armagh side in their previous games. Surely the Rebels should be expecting to win well.

A lot of their poor performance has to be down to team selection. One of the key strengths of this county has been their ability run at teams, but Conor Counihan’s selection neutralised that in many ways. Paul Kerrigan and Paddy Kelly were on the bench, while Ciaran Sheehan was anchored in at full-forward.

Aidan Walsh drove through a couple of times from centre-forward — and almost blasted in a first-half goal — but he was missed out in midfield, and Pearse O’Neill might have been better suited to 11.

James Loughrey was taken off for Paudie Kissane while Graham Canty remained in the half-back line. The Antrim convert was one of the few men who ran at Kerry in the Munster final and is capable of breaking the lines from the back. Canty has been a fine servant to the Cork jersey but we would suggest that Loughrey now offers more in that defence.

Depending on who you talk to, there needs to be further changes at the back. Eoin Cadogan or Michael Shields have been trumped for the number six shirt on the basis of their physicality and mobility.

Certainly Dublin will exploit any weaknesses with their searing pace burning through the middle.

Ultimately, Cork did get their best runners on the field in their best positions and, as the Dubs do, they cut through the middle to set up scoring chance after chance late on.

Galway fought the tide but, once the goal went in, it was curtains. The Rebels may have to look at what dragged them over the line.

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