Kerry see off Tyrone in Croker cracker to reach All Ireland final
Kerry 0-18 Tyrone 1-11
The sign of champions! The final margin was four points but Kerry scarcely deserved to win by such a margin.
This absorbing contest, arguably the best match in the 2015 football championship, was in the balance until Kerry's last substitute Barry John Keane kicked over his side's eighteenth point in the 71st minute.
The last time the rain was so persistant for an entire championship match at headquarters was in 2004 when the Kingdom beat Galway in a thrilling quarter final. This latest rain lashed contest didn't produce as many goals but it was every bit as entertaining and tense.
Tyrone deserves immense credit for their contribution; five points down at the midpoint of the second half they could have folded.Instead they fashoined a terrific comeback after Peter Harte's expertly taken 59th minute penalty.
But then it was their past alleged sins came back to haunt them. Having tied up the game with eight minutes of normal time remaining; they immediately fell a point again as Anthony Maher got on the end of a move involving Colm Cooper and Donnchadh Walsh.
Then came the key moment in the game in the 65th minute when Tyrone substitute Padraig McNulty went down in the square under a heavy challenge. Not alone did referee Maurice Deegan ignore Tyrone's claim for a penalty he booked the Tyrone substitute for diving.
Just to rub salt into Tyrone's wounds Kerry went straight up the field and Killian Young - who had operated as a sweeper for most of the game before switching to man mark Sean Cavanagh after his first marker Peter Crowley was substituted - caught a ball near the Hill 16 end and popped it over the bar.
Kerry were two points clear and on their win to contesting back to back All-Ireland finals for the first time since 2008-09.
Tyrone sense of injustice at the refereeing performance of Deegan at the business end of the game was heightened further in the 68th minute when after Colm Cooper fisted the ball wide the referee called back play and awarded Kerry a close-in free which Paul Geaney - who had replaced team captain Kieran Donaghy at half time - kicked over.
On balance, though, Tyrone would be wrong to blame the referee for their losing to Kerry for the first time in championship football at Croke Park since the 1986 All-Ireland final. They created four goal scoring chances but failed to avail of any of them. Kerry goalkeeper Brendan Kealy saved from Connor McAliskey in the early minutes and made an even better save from Mark Bradley in the 44th minute.
Their key player all season Sean Cavanagh was effectively held for most of the 70 minutes by Crowley - although the Tyrone captain did become more influential in the final quarter. Tyrone middle distance free taking let them down - particularly at the business end of the game when goalkeeper Niall Morgan - who kicked one monster free in the first half - and Darren McCurry missed crucial chances.
The other reason for their loss was that Kerry put so much pressure on Niall Morgan's re-started particularly in the third quarter that it unhinged his play-outs and it played a key role in helping Kerry extend their one point half time lead (0-8; 0-7) to five points by the 55th minute.
But the decision of Kerry boss Eamon Fitzmaurice to withdraw team captain Kieran Donaghy at the break - he had scored a point just before half time but had been generally ineffective - was a key factor in getting Kerry over the line.
The introduction of Paul Geaney meant that Kerry changed their style of play in the second half and ultimately this paid rich dividends. Instead of pumping high balls into Donaghy which wasn't yielding any results and worst still was handing back possession to Tyrone, Kerry put the ball through the hands and their patient build-up agianst the 14 man Tyrone defence might have annoyed the Tyrone fans but it was effective.
Even though he failed to score from play James O'Donoghue worked tirelessly - mostly away from the position. He was marked initially by Ronan McNamee but Cathal McCarron switched on to him at the end of the first quarter but O'Donoghue's performance underlined why Kerry risked him despite his dodgy shoulder.
Colm Cooper was less effective but still played a crucial role and ironically, McNamee who had swapped with McCarron ended up receiving a black card for a foul on Cooper in the 54th minute.
McNamee was the second player to be black carded. Veteran Kerry defender Marc O Se only lasted 16 minutes - he was sent for an early shower after a rugby style tackle on Connor McAliskey.
There was speculation before the game that David Moran was doubtful. He still put in a big shift before being replaced by Bryan Sheehan in the 54th minute though in terms of work rate he was overshadowed by Anthony Maher and significantly by his standards Mattie Donnelly had a quiety game at midfield for Tyrone,though he score a wonderful point before half time.
The contest was so tight that it looked as if whichever side would score a goal would go on to win the tie. In the event Tyrone needed the goal to get back in the match. It's concession will infuriate Eamon Fitzmurice as his team were turned over in midfield and three passes later substitute Barry Tierney was bearing down on goal where he was fouled.
But in the end Peter Harte's penalty goal wasn't enough to save the Ulster side. Kerry simply ticked too many boxes though it remains to be seen whether Kieran Donaghy will lead them out in the All-Ireland final against either Dublin or Mayo next month.
The official attendance was 53,044.
Kerry: B Kealy; P Murphy, M O Se, S Enright; J Lyne, P Crowley, K Young (0-1); A Maher (0-1), D Moran; S O'Brien (0-2), J Buckley (0-3), D Walsh (0-1); C Cooper (0-2 1f) , K Donaghy (0-1), J O'Donoghue (0-4, 3f, 1 45). Subs: F Fitzgerald for O Se (BC) 16m; P Geaney (0-3, 1f) for Donaghy ht; B Sheehan for Moran 54m; D O'Sullivan for O'Brien 60m; A O'Mahony for Crowley 61m; BJ Keane (0-1) for Walsh 70m.
Tyrone: N Morgan (0-1, 1f); R McNamee, J McMahon, C McCarron; T McCann, R McNabb (0-1), A McCrory; C Cavanagh (0-1), M Donnelly (0-1); P Harte (1-0, 1g pen), M Bradley (0-2), C Meyler; D McCurry (0-2, 1f), S Cavanagh, C McAliskey (0-4, 1f). Subs: P McNulty for Meyler 47m; B Tierney for McCrory 55m; C Clarke for McNamee 55m; R O'Neill for McCurry 65m
Referee: Maurice Deegan (Laois)