Scintillating second half gives Kingdom final hope

All Ireland SFC Semi-Final: Kerry 1-18 Tyrone 0-18

Brian Ó Beaglaoich of Kerry celebrates at the final whistle during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final match between Kerry and Tyrone at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Brian Ó Beaglaoich of Kerry celebrates at the final whistle during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final match between Kerry and Tyrone at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Damian Stack, Croke Park, Dublin

It's not even so much that it allowed Kerry to win or that it secured a place in the final, it's that it afforded people the chance to dream. To dream of the steps of the Hogan Stand. To dream of the Sam Maguire. To dream of Rathmore Station, Denny Street and the Glebe car park.

That second half performance - the fact and the quality of it - afforded the people of Kerry and, yes, the vast majority of neutrals out there the chance of dream of an end to the drive for five.

We must caution that there's still a hell of a long way to get to there from here. We must stress that it's much more unlikely than likely, that Dublin are the warmest of favourites, but there is hope, that most precious of commodities.

There's hope because some of what Kerry were able to do and the level they were able to get to. The precision they played with, the energy, the intensity and the desire and that desire is an almost tangible thing. This Kerry team is just never beaten, you can see it in them, you can sense it in them.

Even after a first half where they were a merely shadow of their usual selves, the Kingdom found it within themselves (with the help, obviously, of some astute switches on the line by the management team) to overcome, to will themselves back into contention.

There were times in the first half when it felt as though this young Kerry side were being given an education by Mickey Harte and his somewhat grizzled, gnarled and experienced Red Hand warriors.

Well if they were - and we'd argue to an extent that they were in fact - they're quick studies these Kerry boys and they're going to have to be to reach the level that's going to be required to pull off the greatest shock since, well, since Peter Keane was a lad down in South Kerry and Seamus Darby danced his jig in front of the Hill.

That it all started so unpromisingly is what made the second half turnaround all the more encouraging. There was a certain lethargy to the Kingdom and, even, an aimlessness as the game was played almost totally on Tyrone's terms.

With no pressure on Niall Morgan's kick-outs, with very little pressure on the players carrying the ball out from the back and with little pressure on players like Frank Burns as they put the ball in on a plate to Cathal McShane and Matthew Donnelly in the inside line, Kerry were in all sorts of bother.

With the benefit of hindsight Tyrone didn't make nearly enough of their early dominance. Harte's men eventually did open out a reasonable advantage over the Kingdom by the time half-time rolled around - four points, 0-5 to 0-9 - but they took their time in doing so.

Three points to one clear after six minutes, they allowed Kerry to claw their way back to parity the tenth minute with a pair of points by Seán O'Shea (a free) and Paul Geaney (a gift from Niall Morgan).

Even playing poorly there was a certain doggedness to Kerry and when you've got David Clifford in your ranks, anything is possible. A Morgan forty five on eleven minutes restored Tyrone's lead, but it was short lived with Clifford (overall subdued in the half) booming over an effort from distance.

Tyrone's grip on the game though was very much entrenched by now and over the next twenty minutes they set about establishing that bridgehead - outscoring the Kingdom five points to one over that period.

The second half was all so very different. Where Kerry were lethargic and leggy in the first half, they were fast and fleet of foot - epitomised by the introduction of Jack Sherwood at half-time - where they were stand-offish in the first, they were in your face intense.

Take Burns as an example. He was so prominent in the first half and nowhere near in the second. Kerry put a press on and upped the work-rate considerably allowing them a platform back into the game.

The Kingdom took the first two points of the second half - from an O'Shea free and a Geaney point from play - to halve the deficit by the fortieth minute mark. After a couple of swapped points that status was maintained by the forty fifth minute, but Kerry were on the march, you could see it in them.

Of course, Tyrone didn't fold, but it was no surprise really when Kerry put on a surge between the fifty third minute and the fifty sixth minute to turn a two point deficit (0-10 to 0-12) into a four point lead (1-13 to 0-12).

Tommy Walsh - just on the pitch - was central to the first two points of that 1-3 for Kerry assisting David Moran and David Clifford for points before Stephen O'Brien took central stage.

His goal - taking a brilliant assist from Paul Geaney - was textbook and top class, his point less than sixty seconds later equally so, went a long way towards wrapping the game up for the Kingdom.

Yes there was still about twenty minutes to go, but the goal always felt decisive. Tyrone - apart from one outside chance for Peter Harte - never really looked like getting a goal and Kerry when they had to, when Tyrone threatened a little to reel them in, always had the capacity to score.

Kerry march on, with hope in their hearts. It doesn't get much better than that. Just one thing as a matter of fact. Roll on September 1.

Kerry: Shane Ryan, Jason Foley, Tadhg Morley, Tom O'Sullivan, Paul Murphy, Gavin Crowley, Shane Enright, David Moran (0-1), Adrian Spillane, Brian Ó Beaglaoich, Seán O'Shea (0-6, 5f, 1 '45), Stephen O'Brien (1-2), David Clifford (0-5, 1f), Paul Geaney (0-3), Killian Spillane Subs: Gavin White for S Enright, half-time, Jack Sherwood (0-1) for A Spillane, half-time, Tommy Walsh for J Foley, 50, Dara Moynihan for K Spillane, 57, Jonathan Lyne for G Crowley, 70, Jack Barry for T O'Sullivan, 74 Black Card: Stephen O'Brien not replaced

Tyrone: Niall Morgan (0-2, 2 '45s), Ronan McNamee, Pádraig Hampsey, Rory Brennan, Michael McKernan (0-1), Conor Meyler, Kieran McGeary, Colm Cavanagh, Michael Cassidy, Richie Donnelly (0-1), Frank Burns, Niall Sludden (0-2), Peter Harte (0-1f), Cathal McShane (0-7, 3f), Matthew Donnelly (0-2) Subs: Connor McAliskey (0-1) for N Sludden, 57, Tiernan McCann for K McGeary, 57, Darren McCurry (0-1) for M Cassidy, 64, Brian Kennedy for C Cavanagh, 68

Referee: Maurice Deegan (Laois)