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Tyrone v Kerry -- row waiting to happen


THEY won't admit it publicly, but Kerry and Tyrone don't like each other very much. Now, Dromid Pearses insist that their reaction to last Sunday's bust-up in Portlaoise has nothing to do with inter-county rivalry and that they would have responded in precisely the same way if a club from any county other than Tyrone were involved.

However, the GAA world will still wonder if there was a sub-text to a sparky affair which ended in a major controversy.

Not so, say Dromid. "Had this occurred with any team we would feel the same. We have the greatest respect for Tyrone football and all they have achieved, but incidents such as last Sunday's cannot be tolerated by anyone or any team regardless of what county or province they represent," said their statement.

Still, at a broader level, it continues to bother Kerry that they lost two All-Ireland finals and a semi-final to Tyrone in six seasons (2003, '05 and '08), a championship setback rate the Kingdom hadn't endured in such a short space of time against anybody other than Cork since losing to Galway in 1963, '64 and '65.

Tyrone are delighted to have inflicted such pain on Kerry, but resent what they regard as a lack of respect from the southern gods.

We'll never know if that background influenced the mindset of the teams last Sunday, but it certainly appears to have crept into the high-tension aftermath, certainly beyond the two clubs.

Former Tyrone chairman Pat Darcy tossed the reddest of herrings into the pool by dragging Tadhg Kennelly's foul on Cork's Nicholas Murphy in the 2009 All-Ireland final into the controversy, describing it as one of the worst incidents of indiscipline he had seen on a football field.

At the very least, it implied that Kerry players could wander onto the dark side too.

That was accompanied by Kerry county chairman Patrick O'Sullivan stating that (together with county secretary Peter Twiss) he hoped to be called to any investigation. -- one presumes that they wouldn't be offering to travel to Dublin to incriminate one of their own clubs!

Comments from county officers gave the controversy a wider Kerry-Tyrone context, but then one has been running for several years.

Cue Jack O'Connor -- a Dromid Pearses clubman -- and Mickey Harte.

In 2007, O'Connor referred to the "arrogance of northern football which rubs Kerry people up the wrong way," he wrote.

"They're flash and nouveau riche and full of it. Northern teams talk about how they did it, they go on and on about this theory and that practice, as if they'd just split the atom. They build up a mythology about themselves."

He also wrote that "losing to Tyrone is worse than losing to almost anybody else."

Two years later, Harte countered with reminders of how in 2004 Mikey Sheehy had described Tyrone as negative, while "Sean Walsh (the then Kerry chairman) was claiming Kerry had saved football from the northern hordes."

He also noted how before the 2005 All-Ireland final, the Tyrone squad had felt that "Pat Spillane's comments about puke football implied we were plying a nasty trade."

All of the Kerry-Tyrone sideshows of the past decade might, of course, have had no relevance whatsoever to what happened last Sunday, but, at the same time, when the prize at stake is a place in an All-Ireland final, it's easy for them to re-surface, even among clubs teams on a January day in O'Moore Park.

Irish Independent