Tyrone vs Cork: Brian Kennedy wary of threat posed by Rebels ahead of crunch tie

Tyrone midfielder Brian Kennedy
-Credit: (Image: ©INPHO/Lorcan Doherty)

Brian Kennedy says Cork’s surprise victory over Donegal puts them in the top handful of sides in the country. The All Star midfielder and his Tyrone side will lock horns with the Rebels this Saturday at Tullamore - and it’s all to play for.

Cork (+4) top the group on four points with Donegal (+5) and Tyrone (+7) on two points. Donegal are ahead of Tyrone by virtue of their impressive 0-21 to 0-13 win over the Red Hand men three weeks’ ago at MacCumhaill Park.

It was a game where Kennedy gave an exhibition of clean tackling in defensive one on ones to turn over three balls.

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However, a Tyrone win at O’Connor Park and a Donegal victory over Clare in Castlebar would see a three-way tie at the top, which would mean it comes down to score difference.

In that scenario Cork would miss out on top spot, with either Donegal or Tyrone taking the prized ticket straight into an All-Ireland quarter-final.

This is vital for any side with All-Ireland aspirations, as it means avoiding a treacherous route of three Championship games in 14 days.

It also means most likely not having to play Dublin or Kerry until an All-Ireland semi-final, as they look set to top their groups as well.

“Cork beating Donegal really threw our group wide open and we knew that anything other than a win against Clare would have been no good to us and that gave us extra impetus,” said Kennedy.

“They (Cork) are definitely going to be a tough challenge for us.

“If you are beating Donegal then you have to be among the top four or five sides in Ireland and it will be a massive test for us. We will have to do our homework on them.

“They drew with Armagh in their last league game and the last day out overcame Donegal so they are certainly showing a bit of form.

“They have big men all around the field and they managed to score three goals against a Donegal side who don’t normally concede any.

“Long kick outs are a big part of their game, so we are going to have to do a lot of work to try and shut that down.

“Cork have always been a tough opponent for Tyrone. We never get it easy

against them and this weekend will be no different.

“We will prepare well for them, go out and give it our best shot and hopefully get the right result and see where that leaves us in the table.”

In the past Cork’s power and physique has troubled Tyrone, who have tended to have smaller sides over the years than the Rebels.

They also showed a sharper tactical edge in disposing of Donegal. Tyrone have struggled to hit the heights for a number of years and it was only a 2-2 blast from defender Niall Devlin and a late surge that saw them home against Clare, who had a man sent off late on.

“Niall got them opportunities and put them away because we were definitely below power in the first half,” said big Derrylaughan man Kennedy.

“Mattie (Donnelly) is our leader, big time. He drives that team on for us and he was just class with those four points.

“We knew that Clare were going to put up a big fight as they had run Kerry close and put up a big fight. We knew that it was going to be no different.

“They have good players all over the field and plenty of pace and thankfully we pulled away in the end.

“We are struggling for consistency during games and it was only when the game opened up that we started to put them away.”

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