Wednesday 13 December 2017

O'Connor hails Kingdom revival

KERRY 1-16

DAMIAN LAWLOR in Killarney

KERRY maintained their historic record of not losing a home championship game in the past 17 years by utterly dismissing Tyrone at Fitzgerald Stadium yesterday evening.

And Colm Cooper is now just three points away from becoming the all-time top scorer in Gaelic football history. His 0-5 haul last night edges him even closer to the current holder Mikey Sheehy and it's odds-on that the Gooch will take his mantle when Kerry play Clare in the fourth round of the qualifiers next weekend.

Cooper's team has been heavily criticised this year for their wearisome displays but they had a point to prove last night. With the futures of some of their most experienced and established stars hanging in the balance they pulled their sleeves up, gritted their teeth and pulled through in fine style.

"Sometimes our backs needs to be against the wall to get a performance and that's the way it was today," said Kerry manager Jack O'Connor. "We felt the form was there and the players were there but it took our old nemeses to get this out of us. You never know from week to week if you'll get a performance like this but we got one."

Mickey Harte praised Kerry for their display but was critical of referee David Coldrick.

"Kerry should have been further ahead half-time," he said. "That gave us lifeline and we didn't believe the game was lost by any means. But while they were under pressure when we scored our goal they responded positively."

Harte said he believed the sending-off of Brian McGuigan was harsh.

"I do believe the sending-off was harsh. I didn't think that the shoulder to the back should have been a red card offence. Yes, it was foul and it was petulant and yes it shouldn't happen but I felt it was harsh, there was no merit in that red card. The extra man did make a difference and after that it was a damage limitation job for us.

"Seventeen yellow cards was excessive," he added. "I thought when Pat McEnaney became the referees' boss all that was behind us, I thought we were trying to send the message out that we don't need a plethora of cards. That message didn't seem to register with this man today.

"In every other game I've seen this year the card count has gone down -- that didn't happen today."

In front of a crowd of 24,370 this game was no spectacle. It wasn't helped by constant bickering and persistent fouling from the players either.

When asked if he had concerns over Coldrick's appointment for the game, the Tyrone manager replied: "I have to say I was concerned that he was appointed. I'm not in a position to blame referees for losing games, let me make that clear. That is the third game we've played that he's taken this year (Kildare in the league final and Donegal in the Ulster championship) and while he didn't beat us, you have to ask yourself what influence these people have on games. I don't feel that he benefits our team a lot."

Harte also made reference to the fact that he would be around next season to rebuild the side and said it was too early for any of his players to consider retiring.

Midway through the second half Tyrone gave themselves a chink of light with a goal from Conor Gormley, who had run from deep to support his colleagues. Joe McMahon's shot was saved by Brendan Kealy but Gormley slipped it home. But almost immediately Kieran Donaghy replied with a well-taken goal of his own and from there Kerry only gained in confidence.

Kerry had led 0-8 to 0-4 at the break, but should have been further in front, such was their dominance at times. After the restart, Bryan Sheehan and Aidan Cassidy exchanged points but the game came to life after 43 minutes with Gormley's goal.

Up to then the home team had defended well and pressed even better. It was a bad goal to give away but two minutes later Donaghy also palmed a goal home to send the crowd wild. A marvellous Sheehan catch found Cooper in space -- he fisted across for Donaghy to arrive at the far post and raise a green flag. His score left Kerry four ahead again, 1-10 to 1-6.

Down a man soon after, Tyrone never recovered. It's back to the drawing board for Harte but with key players to return from injury and plenty of young players to work with there is still much to look forward to.

Kerry's concerns are more immediate. On the night that Tomas O Se made his 81st championship appearance, it was fitting that their veteran players refused to let the curtain fall on their careers in their own backyard.

Scorers -- Kerry: C Cooper 0-5 (1f), K Donaghy 1-1, B Sheehan (3f), Declan O'Sullivan 0-3 each, J O'Donoghue 0-2, P Galvin, P Curtin 0-1 each. Tyrone: C Gormley 1-0, C Cavanagh, C Clarke, D McCurry, M Penrose (1f), A Cassidy, Sean O'Neill 0-1 each

Kerry: B Kealy; M O Se, A O'Mahony, S Enright; T O Se, E Brosnan, K Young; A Maher, B Sheehan; P Galvin, Declan O'Sullivan, D Walsh; J O'Donoghue, C Cooper, K Donaghy. Subs: Darran O'Sullivan for D Walsh (49), P Crowley for S Enright (65), K O'Leary for Declan O'Sullivan (65), P Curtin for O'Donoghue (66), B McGuire for K Young (66)

Tyrone: P McConnell; A McCrory, C Clarke, D Carlin; R McNamee, C Gormley, S O'Neill; J McMahon, C Cavanagh; Mattie Donnelly, Mark Donnelly, P Harte; M Penrose, D McCurry, O Mulligan. Subs: R McMenamin for D Carlin (11), D McCaul for R McNamee (33), A Cassidy for Mattie Donnelly (35), S O'Neill for M Penrose (46), B McGuigan for D McCurry (55)

Referee: D Coldrick (Meath)

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