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Cool heads and strong finish a winning mix for classy Kingdom

All-Ireland sfc semi-final: Kerry 0-18 Tyrone 1-11

Kerry's Colm Cooper punches the ball goalwards under pressure from Tyrone players Ronan Mcnabb and Justin McMahon
Kerry's Colm Cooper punches the ball goalwards under pressure from Tyrone players Ronan Mcnabb and Justin McMahon
Peter Harte scores with a penalty for Tyrone at Croke Park yesterday
McMahon tries to drag Cooper to his feet
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

When Tyrone asked the hard questions, Kerry leafed through their trusted volume of answers, found the correct ones and duly delivered them.

They do that better than anybody else, which explains why they are once again taking their Championship season into September and a big-day showdown with Dublin or Mayo in the All-Ireland final.

Tyrone had the great prize in their sights when a gritty revival brought them level after 62 minutes but they failed to score again, whereas Kerry kicked four points in a calm, well-organised run to the finish line.

The final quarter will long be a source of frustration for Tyrone, who found themselves 0-14 to 0-9 down after 56 minutes, leaving them facing the ultimate test of their resilience.

Response

The response was courageous and effective as they outscored Kerry by 1-2 to 0-0 over the next six minutes.

The goal - Tyrone's first in four games - came from a Peter Harte penalty in the 59th minute after sub Barry Tierney was hauled down in the square.

Mark Donnelly levelled it up three minutes later, leaving Tyrone looking as if they had timed their run to perfection.

That might well have been the case against any other opposition but Kerry's ingrained capacity to work their way through problems kicked in, with Anthony Maher restoring the lead before subs Paul Geaney (2) and Barry John Keane added further points.

Kerry had some scary moments too in the closing minutes, especially when Tyrone sub Padraig McNulty went to ground as he powered in on goal.

Tyrone supporters screamed for a penalty, only for referee Maurice Deegan to adjudge that McNulty had thrown himself to the ground. A free out and a yellow card followed, much to Kerry's relief and Tyrone's disgust.

Frankly, Kerry could have had no complaints if a penalty had been awarded in what was the ultimate 50-50 call. Unfortunately for Tyrone, Deegan ruled against them and a glorious opportunity to open up a two-point lead had passed.

They will feel hard done by in that instance but they have to take full responsibility themselves for missing four point-scoring opportunities in the final quarter when Niall Morgan and Darren McCurry were off-target with long-range frees.

The slippery conditions on a wet afternoon made it difficult for kickers but four misses from four attempts was still an unacceptably high error rate.

Tyrone will also look back with regret on missed goal opportunities, the clearest of which was in the 43rd minute when Brendan Kealy saved from Mark Bradley after he had been played in on goal by Sean Cavanagh.

It was a good save by Kealy but, in truth, the shot was much too close to him. Eight minutes later, Tiernan McCann toe-poked the ball wide.

The Kerry goal had some narrow escapes in the first half too while Tyrone were also unlucky to have a '45' awarded against them in the 29th minute. James O'Donoghue pointed but TV replays were far from clear-cut on whether it was a Tyrone defender that knocked the ball over the endline.

With so many close calls going against them, it really was a tough day for Tyrone but, despite the various setbacks, they plugged on with trademark defiance, only to come up short at the end.

It was, in many ways, the ideal way for Kerry to advance to the final. Untested by Kildare in the quarter-final, they needed a much stiffer test to raise them to the level they will require against Dublin or Mayo in the final.

They certainly got that while, at the same time, having enough doubts raised to ensure that a clear focus is maintained in the run-up to the final.

They certainly have plenty to work on, which is exactly as Eamonn Fitzmaurice will like it as he attempts to pull all the strands together.

After scoring 12 goals in their previous four games, Kerry would have been expected to test Morgan but, in fact, they rarely got within striking distance of the Tyrone goalkeeper.

That required them to improvise, which they did with a high degree of success.

Johnny Buckley scored their first three points from play in the opening 10 minutes and with Donnchadh Walsh busy all over the pitch, Kerry led by 0-7 to 0-5 on the half-hour mark.

Colm Cooper and O'Donoghue were playing themselves into the game more slowly than usual but it was inevitable that players of their class would eventually make a significant impact, which they did in the second half.

Kerry led by 0-8 to 0-7 at half-time, their final point coming from Kieran Donaghy after making a spectacular catch.

However, it was not enough to keep the captain aboard as he was replaced for the second half by Geaney, who did well.

Stretched

Kerry thrived in the opening 20 minutes of the second half, which they won by 0-6 to 0-2, before Tyrone's revival powers kicked in. They stretched Kerry to the absolute limit for a period but failed to sustain it all the way to the finish.

Essentially, that was the big difference. Tyrone's All-Ireland winning teams of 2003, '05 and '08 were famous for their powerful finishes and while this group may yet add that vital ingredient to the mix, it just wasn't there yesterday.

Still, Tyrone made real headway as a team in this Championship but remain a work in progress, whereas Kerry are much closer to being the finished article.

An example of that came when they lost Marc O Se on a black card after he pulled down Conor McAliskey in the 15th minute.

He was definitely missed, but Kerry still managed to keep the defensive ramparts strong, apart from one or two lapses in the second half.

Tyrone lost Ronan McNabb on a black card in the second half, while some others were lucky to escape a similar sanction, especially Shane Enright, whose 58th-minute foul drew yellow.

There are serious inconsistencies over what constitutes black and yellow card offences, which is frustrating for players and spectators alike. It really is an area that needs to be tidied up if the black card sanction, which was introduced to outlaw cynical fouling, isn't to lose all credibility.

Scorers - Kerry: J O'Donoghue 0-4 (2fs, 0-1 '45'), J Buckley, P Geaney (1f) 0-3 each, S O'Brien, C Cooper (1f) 0-2 each, K Donaghy, D Walsh, A Maher, BJ Keane 0-1 each. Tyrone: D McCurry 0-3 (1f), P Harte 1-0 (pen), C McAliskey, M Bradley 0-2 each, N Morgan (f), M Donnelly, C Cavanagh, R McNabb 0-1 each.

Kerry - B Kealy; P Murphy, M O Se, S Enright; J Lyne, P Crowley, K Young; A Maher, D Moran; S O'Brien, J Buckley, D Walsh; C Cooper, K Donaghy, J O'Donoghue. Subs: F Fitzgerald for O Se (15, BC), P Geaney for Donaghy (ht), B Sheehan for Moran (55), D O'Sullivan for O'Brien (60), A O'Mahony for Crowley (62), BJ Keane for Walsh (70).

Tyrone - N Morgan; R McNamee, J McMahon, C McCarron; T McCann, R McNabb, A McCrory; C Cavanagh, M Donnelly; M Bradley, P Harte, C Meyler; D McCurry, S Cavanagh, C McAliskey.

Subs: P McNulty for Meyler (46), B Tierney for McRory (55), C Clarke for McNamee (55, BC), R O'Neill for McCurry (65).

Ref - M Deegan (Laois)

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