Sunday 22 October 2017

Kerry underline class with clinical dismissal of Tyrone

KERRY 1-16
TYRONE 1-6

Kerry's Kieran Donaghy celebrates after scoring his side's crucial goal in the win over Tyrone in Killarney yesterday. Photo: James Crombie
Kerry's Kieran Donaghy celebrates after scoring his side's crucial goal in the win over Tyrone in Killarney yesterday. Photo: James Crombie

DERMOT CROWE

AT last some relief for Kerry from the oppressive attentions of Tyrone. Having lost two All-Ireland finals, and a semi-final deemed an affront to football civilisation, they gained a measure of compensation with a 10-point win in the third round of the qualifiers. The final result, 1-16 to 1-6, doesn't flatter them. Not for the first time they've found new life along the scenic route.

There were some pleasing spells of football, a necklace of five unanswered points in the first half from Kerry, and some classy finishing from Declan O'Sullivan and Colm Cooper. But there was controversy too; it wasn't a match to inspire the bards. Referee David Coldrick issued 17 yellow cards and sent off Brian McGuigan, a second-half substitute, on a straight red for elbowing O'Sullivan in the back in a schoolboy fit of pique.

By then Tyrone were sinking fast, six points adrift. They were handed a lifeline when Conor Gormley had a goal after 42 minutes which reduced the difference to two points but in the next play Kieran Donaghy had one at the other end. "We got a goal and didn't defend it, that was the end of the game for us in many ways," Mickey Harte noted afterwards. Harte protested about the dismissal of McGuigan "in the context" of the match itself, feeling it warranted no more than yellow.

"Seventeen yellow cards was excessive. I thought when Pat McEnaney became the referees' boss all that was behind us, I thought we were trying to send the message out that we don't need a plethora of cards. That message didn't seem to register with this man today. In every other game I've seen this year the card count has gone down -- that didn't happen today."

Asked if he had concerns over Coldrick's appointment, Harte replied: "I have to say I was concerned that he was appointed. I'm not in a position to blame referees for losing games, let me make that clear. That is the third game we've played that he's taken this year (Kildare in the league final and Donegal in the Ulster championship) and while he didn't beat us, you have to ask yourself what influence these people have on games . I don't feel that he benefits our team a lot."

But the players, including a good many from Tyrone, repeatedly and freely got involved in tetchy exchanges leaving Coldrick with little scope for discretion. Indeed he could have taken sterner action and issued a few more. Late on Patrick Curtin was blessed to escape with a yellow card for a challenge no less objectionable than McGuigan's. Donaghy pushed both hands into Paschal McConnell's face in the first half and got away with it. Gormley had an early yellow and ran a dangerous line at times thereafter. Kerry face Clare next weekend and they will be unbackable favourites to cruise into the last eight. They worked assiduously and their defending suffocated Tyrone, starving them of scoring openings.

Jack O'Connor will have been additionally pleased with this result. "Fellas really put their bodies on the line," he said, "and that's what we had to do. Tyrone are a running team, they like to get numbers back and work it out and it was critical we slowed their momentum coming out of defence."

Tyrone were well beaten and could have no excuses. This is their earliest championship exit since 2006. They are in transition and can point in mitigation to key absentees like Sean Cavanagh and Kyle Coney. Stephen O'Neill was a late withdrawl, the teenager Darren McCurry playing instead, although O'Neill was sent on after half-time. But the usual fire was absent.

Kildare lived dangerously in Portlaoise before seeing off Limerick after extra-time by 0-19 to 0-12. Limerick led into the late stages of normal time but a late score from Emmet Bolton tied up the match before the final whistle. Kildare accelerated clear from there and now play Sligo in the final qualifier round.

In Thurles, Tipperary celebrated another qualifier win when overcoming Antrim before another disappointingly low attendance of 2,563. They raced into a 0-4 to 0-0 lead after 15 minutes but by half time Antrim trailed by just two and were level three times after. Two late scores sealed a home win and a place in the next round against the losers of today's Ulster final between Donegal and Down at Clones.

Leitrim, who had never won a qualifier until last weekend's victory over Wicklow, put Laois through a torrid evening at Carrick-on-Shannon before conceding defeat. A first-half goal from Kevin Conlon had given them a lead and much hope. Conor Boyle replied with a Laois goal before half-time and they clawed their way back in the second half, winning 1-13 to 1-11.

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