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Lilies robbed by Red Hand

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Leinster captain Conal Keaney. Picture: Dire Brennan / SPORTSFILE

Leinster captain Conal Keaney. Picture: Dire Brennan / SPORTSFILE

Leinster captain Conal Keaney. Picture: Dire Brennan / SPORTSFILE

ONE by one, the Tyrone players walked off the pitch in Newbridge, heads bowed in an attempt to hide the big sheepish grins on their faces.

Grand larceny. No other description does it justice.

The scoreline read 3-16 to 1-21, another clear sign of the current trend for big-scoring and open football, and Mickey Harte suggested divine inspiration might have been a factor on the 10th anniversary of Cormac McAnallen's death.

It was as good an explanation as to how Kildare contrived to lose this game as anyone could come up with right there and then.

Entering added time, the Lilywhites were five points up and St Conleth's Park had a very distinct atmosphere of triumphalism about it.

Five points.

There wasn't even that much additional time, only just enough to allow the few Tyrone supporters in attendance to get out early to beat the traffic.

Two minutes of added time was all that referee Pádraig O'Sullivan signaled.

Yet Tyrone managed to mug Kildare, score two goals, take both points and deflate the mood of the entire ground into one of disbelief.

Even the ever-chipper Jason Ryan struggled to put up a convincing argument that all his team's excellent play through the first 70 minutes of the match had not been eclipsed and rendered irrelevant by their collective narcolepsy in the final two.

Surely, when Ronan O'Neill slotted home Tyrone's first injury-time goal, the collective Kildare psyche should have switched into preservation mode?

MYSTERY

And quite why none of the players through whom Matty Donnelly ran before setting up the shot which led to Mark Donnelly's winner thought it pertinent to pull him down and take the black card for the team is something of a mystery.

"We spoke about it a small bit after the game," admitted Ryan.

"We know. But I suppose, in the heat of the game, you work so hard at doing the right things, what was the right thing to do in that scenario?

"Maybe the right thing would have been to take him down. But we shouldn't have got ourselves into that position.

"That is the reality of it. We played very good football to get ourselves into a winning position and then just let it slip."

The worst part about it was that, despite fielding so many young, raw players, Kildare played some of their best football of the past few promising years to engage that very position.

Seán Hurley, for instance, caught five kick-outs in the first half as Kildare threatened to obliterate Tyrone in the centre of the field.

Paul Cribbin at wing-back was another inspired performer and, while not everything Tomás O'Connor did was pristine, he scored a second half goal that looked to have put Kildare too far in front and directly set up five points.

"To be even a point behind at half-time was a miracle for us," conceded Harte.

Yet Tyrone have pace and belief and, despite being clearly inferior, they chipped away, got in for a good goal through the excellent Emmet McKenna and never quite faded from the match.

WIDES

With five minutes to go, and after a spell of exceptional point-kicking from the likes of Eoghan O'Flaherty and Paddy Brophy, Kildare led by five but kicked a couple of wides that might otherwise have dissuaded Tyrone that there was any fight left to fight.

"I still can't believe we got it," said Harte. "Having got the first goal, you thought definitely no chance of getting the second with time running out, but it just shows you that, in sport, it's not over until the final whistle."

Ryan, meanwhile, bemoaned "a few lapses in concentration," fatal as they ultimately proved to be. "Not any one individual, a collective thing for them to get those scores. It's all about those two goals," he added.


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