Wednesday 20 September 2017

Kerry dreams come true as bogeyman from Tyrone is slain

Kerry fans Michelle Long & Louise O'Connor celebrate after winning against Tyrone in the All-Ireland Senior Football semi-final today at Croke Park
Kerry fans Michelle Long & Louise O'Connor celebrate after winning against Tyrone in the All-Ireland Senior Football semi-final today at Croke Park
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

It has taken 29 years, but the only thing approaching a Kerry "neurosis" has finally been laid to rest.

Not since the aftermath of Hurricane Charlie which raged across the country in 1986 has the Kingdom reigned triumphant over Tyrone in Croke Park.

They beat them in Killarney in the All-Ireland qualifier in 2012. But that wasn't quite the same thing.

And in all their other crucial encounters, the Red Hand definitely had them spooked.

Finally, under a suitably biblical deluge that gave it the feel of a sweeping epic playing out before our eyes, the spell was broken when the Tyrone blanket defence crumbled at last.

The fans had been geared up for an edge-of-their-seats situation yesterday, and there was precious little feel-good factor on the streets surrounding Croke Park in the run-up to the big game.

For one thing, it's hard to be jovial when the sodden flags persist in wrapping around you in the same infuriating way that a wet shower curtain does.

Some fans wore both raincoat and waterproof poncho in an effort to stave off the worst of the diabolical weather.

But in any case, this was not "just sport". This was a military campaign, planned with precision and executed with grim determination by both sides.

So, accordingly, the fans trooped tensely and almost silently to the stadium like onlookers on their way to the Battle of the Somme, quaking in their boots at what they were about to witness.

"Hopeful" was the single terse word uttered by fans Paudie O'Donoghue and Tom Slattery from Killarney.

"It'll be a dog fight," predicted Darragh Bergin, also from Killarney.

And so it proved.

The same match could well have been played out on an ice rink, so slippy and slidey was it for the players, and all the action seemed almost in slow-motion.

The fact that the floodlights were needed said it all about how inhospitable a day it was.

In all, 53,044 people had travelled, and judging by the noise levels, the crowd was equally split.

Over on Hill 16, a band of Tyrone supporters kept up a rumble of rousing soccer-style chants.

None of the Kerry fans had any time for that, all preferring an urgent stream of acute analysis and advice muttered like a prayer: "Would ye pass it? Pass it!"

Occasionally, a lone voice would arise from the crowd: "On Kerrrry!"

And among them was golfing champ, Shane Lowry, as their lucky talisman.

Every point was a battle sorely won, but by half-time Kerry were one ahead, seven points to six.

When the Gooch, Colm Cooper, was knocked to the ground in the second half, many Kerry fans leapt to their feet, shaking their fists in rage.

Too many memories came flooding back of their bruising 2005 All-Ireland final encounter against Tyrone, when the Gooch received a severe blow to the face.

A Tyrone goal came as a jolt, with Kerry fearing it was happening all over again.

But they rallied and finally, three decades of ecstatic relief arrived, with a Kerry triumph, 17 points to 14.

The Red Army slumped in disbelief.

"I don't think it was a good game, but we got the right result," said a jubilant Michelle Long from Keel.

The whole county will have slept soundly last night, now the Tyrone bogeyman has proved to be just a coat draped over a chair all along.

Irish Independent

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