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Lilywhites break down final barrier

After 60 competitive matches, and collective training sessions that surely run into the high hundreds under Kieran McGeeney's stewardship, Kildare at last have some significant silverware.

If there is a psychological impact that this triumph will carry, it can't, and won't, be measured until later in the summer.

McGeeney joked afterwards that elements of the media had been more demanding of a trophy at times from his team than even he had been, an attempt to play down the significance of what they had just done.

But for now there has to be a glow of satisfaction, relief even, that they have gone and closed a deal; that the toil and effort over the last four and a half years under McGeeney is beginning to pay off with more tangible recompense.

Greater tests lie ahead obviously, but Mickey Harte hasn't lost too many Croke Park finals (just the 2005 Ulster final replay from five appearances before yesterday) in his 10 seasons of Tyrone management, so the magnitude of what Kildare achieved shouldn't be diminished in any way, not least by themselves.

Ultimately, when the moment came, they seized it, and it was a 20-year-old with no fear or baggage who liberated the Lilywhites.

Padraig Fogarty has been mapped for a big future for some time, and he delivered on some of that promise with a highly productive 25-minute cameo that broke this game and set Kildare free.

A replacement for the ineffective Alan Smith on 47 minutes, Fogarty sent over his first point within five minutes, off his left foot, but it was his second on 62 minutes for a 0-11 to 0-10 lead that was the catalyst for Kildare to turn the screw.

They made a dash like it was a prison break, moving a further five points clear before Tyrone could organise a posse in pursuit.

Fogarty was a handful in every sense, drawing fouls for two frees that Michael Conway and Eoghan O'Flaherty knocked over, and he finished with three points himself.

For Tyrone, it brought their 12-match unbeaten run since the start of the season to a shuddering halt and an acknowledgment from Harte that they hadn't performed nearly as well as they are capable of. They gave the ball away much too cheaply and paid the price for their inability to exploit the wind in their favour during the first half.

Stephen O'Neill and Owen Mulligan never really had an influence as Peter Kelly's sweeping role closed off the space in front of them.

Peter Harte had done all the damage with his ability to ghost into space in the league game at the same venue earlier in the season. But this time Kildare were much more prepared for that.

Central to Kildare's success was the orchestration of Conway from centre-forward as he sprayed intelligent passes off his left foot that brought his colleagues into play. Tomas O'Connor was a chief beneficiary and troubled Conor Gormley every time the ball came their way.

Kildare were well in command, leading 0-6 to 0-5, when O'Connor put the pressure on from an O'Flaherty delivery on 33 minutes, forcing Aidan McCrory to bat over his own bar from close range.

O'Connor landed awkwardly on McCrory as they fell to the ground, forcing a delay of up to nine minutes as the Tyrone defender received attention and was eventually stretchered off. Harte confirmed afterwards that his removal was precautionary.

It halted Kildare's momentum as O'Neill pointed a free and then skimmed the wrong side of the upright with a low shot after outfielding Ollie Lyons just before the break.

Tyrone threw everything into the opening 10 minutes of the second half and it unnerved Kildare, as they fell behind to two Mulligan frees and an O'Neill point.

But McGeeney's men got a foothold on the game, with O'Flaherty converting a '45' and then setting up Fogarty on 51 minutes to level again, 0-9 each. When the towering Fogarty stepped up again 10 minutes later to put Kildare in front, the sense of anticipation around the ground ran like an electric current. This was it.

John Doyle fetched magnificently from a kick-out and when he lofted over a sideline on 65 minutes for a 0-14 to 0-10 lead, it put them out of sight.

Is it the monkey off the back? Maybe only a provincial crown can have that effect. But for now it gave Kildare a taste of what it might just be like.

Scorers -- Kildare: M Conway 0-5 (4f), E O'Flaherty (2f, 1 '45'), P Fogarty 0-3 each, J Doyle 0-2 (1 s-l), E Callaghan, J Kavanagh, T O'Connor 0-1 each. Tyrone: O Mulligan 0-4 (3f), S O'Neill 0-3 (2f), M Donnelly 0-2, N McKenna, S Cavanagh 0-1 each.

Kildare -- S Connolly 8; E Bolton 7, P Kelly 8, O Lyons 7; H McGrillen 7, M O'Flaherty 7, E Callaghan 8; M Foley 6, P O'Neill 7; E O'Flaherty 8, M Conway 8, J Doyle 7; A Smith 5, T O'Connor 8, J Kavanagh 6. Subs: P Fogarty 8 for Smith (47), D Flynn 6 for Foley (60).

Tyrone -- J Curran 7; A McCrory 6, C Gormley 6, P J Quinn 6; C McCarron 7, P Harte 7, D McCaul 6; A Cassidy 6, C Cavanagh 6; R McNabb 7, M Donnelly 8, S Cavanagh 7; O Mulligan 6, N McKenna 6, S O'Neill 6. Subs: Joe McMahon for McCrory (35), Sean O'Neill for McCaul (63), M Penrose for McKenna (65), M Murphy for C Cavanagh (69).

Ref -- D Coldrick (Meath).

Irish Independent