"We knew there was goals for us"
ADMIT it. Nobody saw that coming. Even at half time there was nothing to suggest that Kerry was going to hand Tyrone their biggest competitive defeat under Mickey Hart'e managerial reign over the Red Hand. Indeed, there was even the feeling at half time that Tyrone looked the better bet to go on and claim a narrow win in Killarney last Sunday. At least that was the thinking in the press box but, hey, what do we know?
You go on the evidence. Sure, Tyrone haven't exactly being going great in the League this year, and that great escape against Kildare the previous weekend was seen for what it was: a team well beaten pulling a fast one on a team that got complacent at the end.
But Kerry hadn't been going well either. Yes, the defeats to Dublin and Derry were tight, and but for a couple of missed scoring chances against Mayo in the second half Kerry might have come away with a point or two from Castlebar. Still, the facts spoke for themselves. One point scored in the last 30 minutes against Dublin. No score in the last 25 minutes against Mayo. Kerry might have been creating the chances but they weren't converting them, which in the end sort of amounts to the same thing.
For Eamonn Fitzmaurice, though, that talk of second half fade-outs never held much water.
"I don't subscribe to that. As I've said I think it's more of a mental thing. I don't think you'd be accusing Tyrone of fading out. It's that period in the second half where if you can get on top and kick for home and you're getting scores and winning possession in the middle of the field it just gives you energy. It gives everyone energy, today it gave the crowd energy and it was harder for Tyrone," he said. "I made the point last weekend that we missed the chances in the second half and that gives the opposition life and Mayo got life and took their scores. It was the same for us today, we took our scores, and the goals in particular seemed to take a lot of the life out of the Tyrone challenge and we just looked stronger towards the end."
By half time last Sunday Kerry had seen two great goals chances saved by Niall Morgan and sometimes that's as many chances at a team will get. Especially against a county like Tyrone who have become market leaders in sending out niggardly defences. Which is what makes Sunday's final scoreline, if not the result, all the more surprising.
Despite his brilliant self-confidence when he gets on the ball and his ability to outstrip defenders, not even James O'Donoghue could have imagined he'd have been allowed to have three one-on-one shots with Morgan in the second half. That the Legion man converted all three just eases concerns a little more over Colm Cooper's absence for the year ahead.
"There was a bit of deja vu in the first half. We had (goal) chances and we didn't take them but as I've said all along as least we are creating the chances, whereas this time last year, earlier in the league especially, we weren't even creating chances, and we were all scratching our heads. At least this year we have been creating chances in all the games, we (just) haven't been converting. Even at half time we knew there was goals there for us and if we got the chances to keep going for them and luckily enough a few of them went in. I'd say one or two of them were of the softer variety but it was great. It just gave us a bit of breathing space on the scoreboard," the Kerry manager said.
Breathing space indeed, but Fitzmaurice knows that last Sunday's rout of Tyrone will county for nothing if Kerry can't build on that with a win over Kildare this Sunday. It is, he says, a "four-pointer" against a team that could very well be dueling it out with Kerry to stave off relegation by the end of round seven.
"We won't be getting carried away. It's good to get two points on the board. The others games we were frustrated afterwards because we had played well in patches but we just didn't finish the job. In any one of the three games we could have got a win out of them but we didn't. You need to win your home games and we had been beaten here (Killarney) by Derry a couple of weeks ago so it was important for us to get a win today.
"In fairness we trained well this week. There was no despondency after last weekend. We had a very good session Tuesday night, again trained well on Thursday night and I was looking forward to the game. I had a good feeling. I knew that Tyrone were going well and after last weekend they'd have a bit of momentum after coming back and winning a game at the death [against Kildare] but I knew we were in a good place. And once we kept at it and finished the job I knew we'd get something out of it.
"Next weekend will be a big test for us. (Kildare) need points, we need points. If the lads can maintain a level of consistency next weekend we're definitely on the right road. We have two huge games coming up against Kildare and Westmeath. They are around us in the table. If you lose those games then you're really looking into the mire. You're really looking at division two. We need to go to Newbridge and it's a four-pointer. If Kildare beat us it propels them in the right direction and we'll be going in the wrong direction, and vice versa."