Tuesday 24 October 2017

Mickey Harte rages over 'unacceptable, unrecognisable' Tyrone collapse

Kerry 3-15 Tyrone 0-9

Colm Cavanagh, Tyrone, in action against Shane Enright, Kerry
Colm Cavanagh, Tyrone, in action against Shane Enright, Kerry
James O'Donoghue strikes his first goal
Kerry's James O'Donoghue celebrates after scoring his third goal against Tyrone
Darran O'Sullivan, Kerry

This time there was no emotion, no players raising their fists to the home faithful on the terraces, none of the faithful taking photos of the final scoreboard for posterity.

When these sides last met in Killarney on a beautiful summer's day in July 2012 for a third-round qualifier, Kerry collectively let their feelings get the better of them on the back of a 10-point victory, their first over a Mickey Harte-managed side in a championship game.

League matches don't trigger those feelings however, not even when the gap stretches to 15 and the performance is more satisfying and welcome in the context of Kerry's three successive losses in the campaign and Colm Cooper's season-ending injury.

For all the bad blood between them in the past, this latest instalment failed to produce a card of any hue which is a further reflection of the impact of the new rules as much as a cooling of the rivalry.

When has that happened in any of the 11 meetings (eight league, three championship) since that landmark 2003 All-Ireland semi-final?

So Eamon Fitzmaurice pitched quickly for some sobriety, stitching regular reminders into his post-match analysis of the journey ahead of them to Newbridge next weekend.

Mickey Harte wasn't so reserved, describing this defeat in the starkest possible terms.

Harte's analysis of any situation has never failed to carry a perspective and that makes his overview on this latest trip to Killarney all the more damning of the visitors' performance.

In his 23 years as an inter-county manager none of his Tyrone teams – minor, U-21 or senior – had never experienced a defeat like it.

Nor had he ever witnessed a second half as bad from them.

"In all my time dealing with Tyrone teams, I've never, ever had a second half like that. In fact, that's the biggest defeat they've ever had, since minors, U-21s or anything else," he suggested.

"It's just not good enough, simple as that, and it's not a performance that anyone could be proud of."

Was it poor execution, poor effort even from a team that scored the first point of the second half through substitute Ciaran McGinley but didn't force the umpires to reach for the flags again as Kerry ran in an impressive and unanswered 3-7?

"I think one thing led to the other," admitted a perplexed manager.

"It's devastating. It's not what you expect from players in a Tyrone jersey. You can't point the finger at any single individual. Collectively we were just so poor as to be unrecognisable," said Harte.

"We have a long hard road and hill to climb now if we are going to regain some of the respect that we earned for ourselves in the last 10 or 12 years."

Harte even expressed sympathy to the Tyrone supporters who had made the long journey to Killarney.


He sensed flaws in Newbridge last week that were masked by their two-goal steal at the end to nick the points from Kildare.

"You can't expect to concede 1-21 and be a good team. We weren't a good team, but we got two points and we didn't refuse them. We knew we had difficulties in our team, and they certainly were highlighted there today again."

Tyrone's defence was ragged. They have ditched the comfort of a sweeper and a heavy defensive orientation that has served them so well in the past to align themselves with the game's new philosophy but this may prompt a rethink.

For Fitzmaurice, there will be quiet personal satisfaction that players he has been expressing his faith in for the last 14 months have finally delivered a performance he always sensed they were capable of.

"At times I have been frustrated, the other lads were frustrated because we know what the lads are capable of and I think that was more of a true reflection of where a lot of them are," he reflected.

Kerry's underage record has been relatively poor over the last few years but that clearly hasn't stalled the production lines completely.

Maybe the stellar cast of the last decade can never be recreated but this was evidence that there is material there to work with.

Paul Murphy and Fionn Fitzgerald were magnificent under breaking ball in defence, Pa Kilkenny too when he came in for Shane Enright late in the first half. David Moran had a towering second half at midfield amidst signs that he is getting his game back and building on the promise he has as a footballer after the two-and-a-half-year absence he endured through injury that ended last summer.

Up front, James O'Donoghue hinted strongly that he is ready to take his game to the next level in Cooper's absence with a sublime second-half hat-trick of goals.

But throughout the first half his willingness to drop the shoulder and run at the Tyrone defence were a portent for things to come.

Harte's reluctance to switch Barry Tierney off him, when those warning sings were flashing, proved costly in the end.

But maybe the most pleasing aspect from a Kerry point of view was the return of Bryan Sheehan who has struggled with fitness for the last 12 months.

Sheehan provides a range and accuracy off the ground that can match anyone in the game and in the first half especially, the 4,950 crowed were treated to an exhibition of place-kicking with Sheehan driving over four – one from 55 metres – and Niall Morgan converting two from 45 and 40 metres respectively.

He left on 64 minutes to the same rapturous reception that Darran O'Sullivan had received on his arrival 13 minutes earlier.

The sides were level at the break, 0-8 each, but Kerry may well have been ahead at that stage were it not for two great saves by Morgan to thwart Peter Crowley and O'Donoghue in the opening minutes.

O'Donoghue made no mistake on 47 minutes for his first goal, taking advantage of Sheehan's clever break from a Kieran O'Leary delivery.

They had stretched their advantage to 1-15 to 0-9 by the time Moran had placed O'Donoghue perfectly on 59 minutes for his second goal of the game and before squeezing his third a la Canavan in the 2005 All-Ireland final out of Morgan's reach as the clock ran down.

Scorers – Kerry: J O'Donoghue 3-3 (2fs), B Sheehan 0-8 (7fs), P Geaney, K O'Leary, A Maher, B J Keane all 0-1 each. Tyrone: N Morgan (2fs), D McCurry, P Harte, R O'Neill all 0-2 each, C McGinley 0-1.

Kerry – B Kelly 7; F Fitzgerald 8, M Griffin 7, S Enright 5; P Murphy 8, P Crowley 7, M O Se 7; A Maher 7, D Moran 8; D Walsh 5, B Sheehan 8, S O'Brien 6; B J Keane 6, D Casey 6, J O'Donoghue 9. Subs: P Kilkenny 8 for Enright (34), K O'Leary 7 for Walsh (46), P Geaney 7 for Keane (46), Darran O'Sullivan 6 for Casey (51), A O'Mahony for Crowley (59), J Buckley for Sheehan (64).

Tyrone – N Morgan 8; B Tierney 4, C Clarke 7, P J Quinn 5; R McNamee 5, R McNabb 4, P Harte 7; C Cavanagh 6, S Cavanagh 5; E McKenna 5, R O'Neill 6, S McGuigan 5; D McCurry 7, Mattie Donnelly 6, P McNiece 4. Subs: Mark Donnelly 5 for McCurry (h-t), C McGinley 6 for McNabb (h-t), C Grugan for E McKenna (62), N McKenna for McGuigan (62).

Ref – R Hickey (Clare)

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