Soaring Donaghy discovers top gear to burn off Tipp
BEATEN Tipperary manager John Evans is never lost for words and, with the sort of Americanism beloved of 'Oprah', he perfectly summed up yesterday's Munster SFC quarter-final in Thurles.
His side had battled extremely bravely. They rocked the defending All-Ireland champions after just seven minutes with a show-stopping Philip Austin goal and stood toe-to-toe with Kerry for a good 45 minutes, but still got beaten by 12 points.
"Overall I've a smile on my face to some degree; these guys are going to learn from it," said Tipp's favourite adopted Kerryman.
But he still couldn't stop himself grimacing while admitting: "But it's tough love, though!" Tough love is exactly what Evans is going to have to keep throwing at his charges.
They threw everything they had at this one but at the end of the day Tipperary still hadn't won a Munster SFC game since 2003 and hadn't beaten Kerry in one since 1928.
Yesterday's harsh lesson underlined again that if you can't sustain it to the final whistle then the big boys, even if they aren't firing on all cylinders, will eventually reach for the turbo button and burn you off mercilessly.
After trailing by just a point at half-time (1-4 to 0-8), Tipperary were unlucky enough to concede a flukey goal after 46 minutes to go six down, but they were equally lucky themselves that Barry Grogan's immediate reply was allowed, considering his overhead flick looked like a 'square' ball.
But they could have no argument about the final 17 minutes when they failed to score and the Kingdom hit 1-6 without reply, much of it thanks to Kieran Donaghy.
In the second half, with the wind advantage, they got much more ball into 'Star' and he soared magically into the clouds to lay off score after score to others, including the flick off Anthony Maher's pass that yielded captain Bryan Sheehan's picture-perfect second goal in the 65th minute.
Donaghy only scored a point himself and was well shackled in the first half by Ciaran McDonald, one of Tipperary's Munster-winning U-21s.
But when Kerry could reach him, as they did consistently in the second half, he certainly showed the appetite and aptitude that has made him famous in what was his first championship start since getting injured against Longford in last year's Qualifiers.
After a shaky first half, Kerry certainly showed yesterday that they have no intention of taking the scenic route this summer. However, manager Jack O'Connor, while raging mostly against the new hand-pass rule that left everyone deeply frustrated, admitted they were far from perfect and will need to improve hugely before facing Cork.
"We can play better than today," he noted. "At least lads know now they have to up the ante. Last year we coasted through the league and fellas maybe had a false sense of security."
Kerry certainly won't have that after yesterday as questions will certainly be asked about their defence, which looked worryingly porous through the middle in the first half. Tom O'Sullivan was burned for pace by Austin more than once, especially when Chris Aylward sent him through for the shock early goal, and the Rathmore corner-back was the first that O'Connor called ashore.
Tipperary's game plan was clearly to pin back Kerry's usually attacking half-forwards and while their energy reserves lasted they did it well, with Marc O Se's calming influence holding the Kingdom defence together for a lot of the first half, while Austin, Peter Acheson and Hugh Coghlan probed and teased.
But in the second period, Mike McCarthy and Tomas O Se got on top of their men to press forward and suddenly they looked like their old selves.
In the first half they were reliant on Donnacha Walsh for long periods to run the show as Paul Galvin dropped very deep to help out defensively and there was some surprise that the Finuge star was called ashore so early after working so hard.
They had a 14th-minute goal from Sheehan disallowed for an illegal hand-pass called against Donaghy and could have had another after 27 minutes when Tipp goalkeeper Paul Fitzgerald made a great point-black save to deny Donaghy.
Brian Mulvihill then scored and if Austin had then not hit a bad wide, Tipp would have gone two clear at a critical period, but crucially Sheehan (with a free) then levelled the game a fourth time and Galvin pointed to send Kerry in ahead at the break
Brogan levelled again immediately on the restart, but things looked ominous when Sheehan was first unlucky to not be given a penalty after a George Hannigan tackle and then forced Fitzgerald to make another good save.
Within nine minutes Kerry had pulled three clear and then came their fortunate goal when McCarthy's fisted effort came off the cross-bar, Donaghy pounced and Coghlan deflected it to Sheehan, who put it away. Even after getting their dubious immediate reply, you could see Tipp's self-confidence and energy seeping away and it was then that Kerry, to quote O'Connor, "put the pedal to the metal".
Subs Anthony Maher and Barry John Keane were particularly impressive in the late stages, with the latter contributing two impressive points on his championship debut.
Tipperary weren't helped by losing their most dangerous forward, Austin, to cramp on the hour and had Barry Grogan sent off in the dying minutes for a second yellow card.
As Evans said they are a work in progress.
"Maybe next year we might be able to go for 65 minutes, but we're two and a half years into it (a five-year plan) and we've youth on our side," he said.
As for Kerry? As Colm Cooper, who quietly chipped in a useful 0-5 admitted: "It was good to get a game, especially when so many guys have retired and we're trying to regroup and change our team around a bit. Every game helps, but that wouldn't be good enough to beat Cork."
Scorers -- Kerry: B Sheehan 2-5 (0-3f, 0-1 '45), C Cooper 0-5 (0-1f), P Galvin, BJ Keane 0-2 each, S Scanlon, Declan O'Sullivan, D Walsh, K Donaghy 0-1 each. Tipperary: B Grogan 1-3 (1 '45), P Austin 1-0, G Hannigan, P Acheson, B Mulvihill 0-1 each.
Kerry -- B Kealy 7; M O Se 9, T Griffin 7, T O'Sullivan 5; T O Se 7, M McCarthy 7, K Young 6; S Scanlon 6, M Quirke 7; P Galvin 7, Declan O'Sullivan 6, D Walsh 8; C Cooper 8, K Donaghy 8, B Sheehan 8. Subs: P Reidy 7 for T O'Sullivan (44), Darran O'Sullivan 6 for Galvin (55), A Maher 7 for Quirke (55), A O'Connell 6 for Young (60), BJ Keane 8 for Declan O'Sullivan (62).
Tipperary -- P Fitzgerald 8; N Curran 6, C McDonald 7, P Codd 6; C Aylward 5, R Costigan 7, C McGrath 6; K Mulryan 6, G Hannigan 7; S Carey 6, H Coghlan 7, P Acheson 7; P Austin 8, B Mulvihill 6, B Grogan 7. Subs: B Fox 6 for Mulvihill (44), B Coen 6 for Carey (55), J Cagney 6 for Austin (60), B Jones 6 for Aylward (65), A Morrissey for McGrath (69).
Ref -- D Coldrick (Meath)