Tuesday 20 August 2019

Destiny day awaits for Kerry after show of defiance

Kerry 1-18  Tyrone 0-18

Stephen O’Brien times his run to perfection before slotting home Kerry’s goal despite the efforts of Tyrone’s Ronan McNamee and Frank Burns. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Stephen O’Brien times his run to perfection before slotting home Kerry’s goal despite the efforts of Tyrone’s Ronan McNamee and Frank Burns. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Somehow, you knew it was always coming to this, that Kerry would emerge to erect the last checkpoint for Dublin as they bid to enter the most exclusive club in championship history.

At face value, Dublin would appear to have all their papers in order, but they will still check the small print over the coming weeks as Kerry will certainly examine every detail in an effort to find a way of blocking their application.

O’Brien is shown a black card late in the game. Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
O’Brien is shown a black card late in the game. Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

It's deep and personal for Kerry now. Having had their ambitions to become the first county in either football or hurling to win the five-in-a-row wrecked in such dramatic circumstances by Offaly 37 years ago, they would find it unbearable if Dublin were to succeed in a similar pursuit.

It's a test of Kerry's pedigree like never before, an occasion when the new generation will be charged with representing the very essence of what football means to the county.

This final will be different to anything that went before and both camps know it.

Dublin will claim that thoughts of the five-in-a-row won't be entertained, while Kerry will be equally insistent that winning the All-Ireland is their sole aim.

It may well be, but the prospect of preventing Dublin achieving something of such huge historic proportions will also be a massively motivating factor.

As for their chances of managing it, they will certainly need to do better than they were for long periods yesterday. Frankly, if they replicated their first-half performance on September 1, they would be at least ten points down and facing an impossible task. Instead, they were only four adrift (0-9 to 0-5) against a Tyrone team that hadn't fully exploited their advantages.

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Mickey Harte's men still looked quite comfortable, although he would have harboured suspicions that something different was coming their way in the second half.

And it did. Kerry outscored Tyrone by 1-13 to 0-9 after restricting them to 0-4 for 25 minutes. It was that period which will leave Kerry supporters believing that the All-Ireland final cause is far from lost, even against a Dublin team that turned in an awesome display against Mayo on Saturday.

Everything about Kerry's game was so much better than an anaemic first-half effort, when there were times when they looked like a team that didn't want to reach the final.

Tyrone were much more efficient on the basics and with Cathal McShane a constant threat close to the Kerry goal, it looked very much as if a repeat of last year's final pairing was on the way.

Jason Foley worked extremely hard against McShane, but it was a very difficult task, given the quality of deliveries arcing into their combat zone.

Resistance

That raised questions about Kerry's outfield resistance, specifically why Tyrone were being allowed to pick out their prize target with relative ease.

It was, no doubt, one of many questions Peter Keane asked his players at half-time. He probably had a lot more to say too, not least stern reminders that they were representing Kerry and all that went with such a big responsibility.

He also undertook some repair work, despatching Jack Sherwood and Gavin White into action for the second half, switches which paid off.

Not as handsomely though as the introduction of Tommy Walsh in the 51st minute at a time when Tyrone were leading by a point.

They extended it to two a few minutes later, but that was as good as it got. Walsh, using all the vast range of experience picked up in the cauldrons of big-day Australian Rules campaigns, gradually unlocked the Tyrone defence, allowing his speedier colleagues to pour through openings which had previously been manned by resolute security men.

With Walsh as the orchestrator, Stephen O'Brien's pace, Paul Geaney's instinct for being in the right place at the right time and David Clifford's artistry became the controlling influences.

It was level at 0-12 each after 55 minutes before O'Brien pounced for the tie-breaking goal after being put through by Geaney. O'Brien added a point almost immediately, leaving Tyrone with a challenge for which they were ill-equipped.

With McShane the only consistent threat in attack, a four-point deficit was always likely to be too much for them. And so it proved.

They had a decent goal chance in the 61st minute but Peter Harte's palmed effort was too weak to beat Shane Ryan in what was effectively their last big opportunity to rattle Kerry.

They raised the tempo in stoppage time, but every time they scored, Kerry countered with a point.

It was all so bitterly disappointing for Tyrone, who will be left with many regrets, not least their failure to inflict more damage in the first half.

It left them very vulnerable when Kerry's inevitable backlash came.

Over the coming weeks, the quality of Kerry's attacking play in the second half will come in for close scrutiny by Jim Gavin and his fellow strategists, especially the pace with which it was executed.

O'Brien was central to that, but is now in real danger of missing the final after being black-carded (justifiably so) late in stoppage time.

Unless, he can convince the disciplinary powers that one of his previous two black cards (v Galway in the Allianz League and v Meath in the Super 8s) weren't merited, he won't be available for the final, which would be a huge personal loss as well as also lengthening the odds on a Kerry win.

That's an issue for another day, but for now Kerry can bask in the satisfaction of a job ultimately well done.

Scorers - Kerry: S O'Shea 0-6 (5f, 1'45); D Clifford 0-5 (1f); S O'Brien 1-2; P Geaney 0-3; J Sherwood, D Moran 0-1 each. Tyrone: C McShane 0-7 (3f); M Donnelly, N Morgan (2 '45s), N Sludden 0-2 each; M McKernan, P Harte (f), D McCurry, C McAliskey, R Donnelly 0-1 each.

Kerry - S Ryan; T Morley, J Foley, T O'Sullivan; S Enright, P Murphy, G Crowley; D Moran, A Spillane; B Ó Beaglaoich, S O'Shea, S O'Brien; P Geaney, D Clifford, K Spillane. Subs: J Sherwood for A Spillane (h-t), G White for Enright (h-t), T Walsh for Foley (51), D Moynihan for K Spillane (57), J Lyne for Crowley (71), J Barry for O'Sullivan (74).

Tyrone - N Morgan; R Brennan, R McNamee, P Hampsey; K McGeary, C Meyler, M McKernan; C Cavanagh, R Donnelly; F Burns, N Sludden, M Cassidy; P Harte, C McShane, M Donnelly. Subs: C McAliskey for Sludden (53), T McCann for McGeary (57), D McCurry for Cassidy (64), B Kennedy for Cavanagh (69).

Ref - M Deegan (Laois)

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