Tuesday 20 February 2018

Donaghy personifies Kerry's cuteness in relegation thriller

Tommy Walsh attempts to get past Tyrone's Ronan McNamee during their game in Omagh
Tommy Walsh attempts to get past Tyrone's Ronan McNamee during their game in Omagh
Eugene McGee

Eugene McGee

Looking at the Kerry and Tyrone game yesterday one has to wonder why there was so much aggro between these two counties when they were competing for All-Irelands over the past decade.

Their relationship on the playing field in those days was as nasty as I have seen in many years and left many people with sour tastes in their mouths - other than Tyrone people of course.

Yesterday's encounter in Omagh produced a few skirmishes, but it was mere child's play by comparison to ten years ago. Instead we watched a wonderful game of football between two evenly matched team - on this day at least - and with relegation hanging over each county the stakes were really high.

In the end it was the cuteness of Kerry when danger threatened in tight situations coupled with their undoubted ability to play better kick passes over the 70 minutes that saved them.

There was less hand-passing than usual these days and mention of the demise of Gaelic football would have hardly have been mentioned as the thousands trooped out of Omagh yesterday.

Kerry were certainly not as advanced in physical fitness as Tyrone and that was a big factor in keeping the home side in this game. Every time Kerry did get in front, Tyrone had the runners ready, willing and able to carry the ball to the other end of the field and get the points to keep them in the game.

The fact that it was fouling by the Kerry backline that allowed Tyrone to come back to parity in the 68th minute was something that could have proved more costly for Kerry.


Kieran Donaghy, returning to his father's home county, was obviously the Kerry target man.

And so it turned out to be. Joe McMahon, one of the few survivors of the great Tyrone sides of the past, coped reasonably well with the big man by punching the dropping ball out of his reach. McMahon was one of the few Tyrone players with the physical strength to deal with the Kerry full-forward.

But great players always have more than one trick in their armoury and Donaghy produced a few deft plays at close range.

One of them yielded a vital score in the 44th minute - Donaghy creating the initial chance for Darran O'Sullivan whose blocked shot ricocheted fortuitously into the hands of Paul Geaney who scored the decisive goal.

And as the All-Ireland final last year showed us, 'cometh the hour cometh the man' should be tattooed on Donaghy's chest because it was he who wriggled his way through to fist over a vital point that helped save his team from defeat.

The draw was all they needed to stay in Division 1 so the Kingdom captain has more than paid his way so far in 2015.

Overall, Tyrone did well enough in this game to give them reasonable expectations of having a good summer this year even if aspirations of winning the Sam Maguire are definitely not on the cards anymore.

Tyrone's return to Division 2 means it will be like the Ulster championship next year with Derry, Tyrone, Armagh, Fermanagh and Cavan all in the mix alongside Galway and Meath.


Blanket disease has Football in serious trouble

Gaelic football has always been a sport that lent itself to changes in style, often to the amazement of the populace and sometimes attracting fierce antagonism. 

In the early 1920s a UCD student called Sean Lavan from Mayo one day set off on a solo run in a challenge game against Kerry and caused a sensation since it was the first time anybody had seen this skill used in a game. The rest is history.

In 1946 Antrim stormed through Ulster to prevent Cavan winning their eighth provincial title in a row with their brilliant use of the then version of the handpass, which shocked the GAA fraternity.

They met Kerry in the semi-final in an old-versus-new style - the Kingdom dismantled the fancy boys with a mixture of traditional football and brute force.

Then in 1960-61 along came Down with a version of football that did not depend on high-catching but developed the 'skill' of breaking the ball to deny Kerry's high-fielders control.

The handpass was back in the '70s with Kerry and Dublin amid severe criticism from many followers, and today we have the blanket defence all over and at all levels, even in schools.

Football has been ever-changing, and probably always will be.

But the latest trend is like a disease, which threatens to greatly weaken the tenets on which Gaelic football was founded and thrived despite all the various new fads over the years.

The GAA at central level must now face up to this reality and decide if the latest fad so no more than that, a fad.

Common sense rather than hysterical reaction is needed but any prominent GAA legislator who denies that the game is in serious trouble is himself in denial.

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