The people of Kerry had been waiting the best part of a decade, but it finally happened.
Tyrone were defeated by a team clad in green and gold in the championship. Ever since they swarmed Kerry into submission in the 2003 All Ireland semi-final – Páidí Ó Sé's last game in charge of the Kingdom's senior football team – this is the victory the Kerry football public has craved most of all. The defeats in 2005 – under Jack O'Connor – and 2008 – under Pat O'Shea – All Ireland finals only added to this sense of yearning.
Kerry folk don't like to think of themselves as inferior to any when it comes to Gaelic Football and the fact Tyrone remained unbeaten was an issue that had to be addressed sooner rather than later. It came in July at a time when neither side was in a particularly good place. Tyrone were in transition we were told, while Kerry, well Kerry were strangely listless. They failed to impress in Munster and they most definitely failed to impress in the opening game of the qualifiers.
They travelled to Mullingar to take on Westhmeath on a fine Sunday afternoon. The place was hopping. The Westmeath faithful turned out in droves and there was a sizable contingent from the Kingdom in attendance too. Kerry simply failed to fire in the first half especially. They only scored their first point from play of the half on 31 minutes with Colm Cooper fisting over the bar. Make no mistake about it Kerry were in trouble.
Westmeath midfield John Heslin was on song, Denis Glennon gave Killian Young a torrid time of it (the experiement of playing Young at corner-back continued to perlex many). By the 39th minute the midlanders were six clear. It wasn't until Darran O'Sullivan, on as a sub owing to a prematch injury, goaled that Kerry began to fight their way back into the game. In the end that they managed to do so was as much to do with Westmeath's limitations than their own tenacity.
Kerry needed something, anything, to restart their season. The visit of Tyrone to Fitzgerald Stadium proved to be just the ticket. Before the draw was made there was a fear that if Kerry were drawn away from home it could be curtains for them. Home comforts worked a treat, however.
They defeated their old rivals 1-16 to 1-6. They were on top from the first minute until the last minute. The only worry about this performance was that this wasn't the Tyrone of old. They were a shadow of their former selves.
The victory set Kerry up for a run to Croke Park and to the quarterfinals. They got an easy final round qualifier draw when they faced off against defeated Munster championship finalists Clare (they were defeated by Cork) and on a nice night for football in the Gaelic Grounds they hammered Clare 222 to 1-6. The game was notable for two things. Number one it was the game when Colm Cooper eclipsed Mikey Sheehy's all time scoring record and secondly because Paul Galvin got himself sent off for two yellow cards in quick succession in the second half.
It wasn't that consequential as he was available for Kerry's game in Dublin against Donegal in the first week of August.