Monday 23 September 2019

Red Hands go back to future and edge closer to 'Super 8s'

Tyrone 2-22 Kildare 1-15

Tyrone on the charge: Conor Meyler of Tyrone gets away from Kildare's Eoghan O'Flaherty during Saturday's qualifier in Newbridge. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Tyrone on the charge: Conor Meyler of Tyrone gets away from Kildare's Eoghan O'Flaherty during Saturday's qualifier in Newbridge. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

When the need is greatest, the tendency is to go back to what you know best and Tyrone are a prime example.

Gone is the kicking game which excited throughout the league - including when comprehensively defeating the Dubs in Croke Park - and early summer. In its place is a blanket defence built on a powerful running game which they have become synonymous with.

Tyrone's Peter Harte in action against Mark Dempsey of Kildare. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Tyrone's Peter Harte in action against Mark Dempsey of Kildare. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Their dismal showing in defeat against Donegal in the Ulster semi-final clearly caused a rethink by Mickey Harte with a decision to go back to the future viewed as the best way to save their season.

Exit

Many were predicting the exit of Harte - who has been at the Tyrone helm since 2003 and guided the Red Hand to three All-Ireland titles - should they fail to get the job done in Newbridge on Saturday night, but there's plenty of life in him yet.

Last year's All-Ireland finalists were at their efficient best with Mattie Donnelly, Peter Harte and Cathal McShane controlling affairs as their miserly defence gave little away, while they attacked in unison with pace and power splitting Kildare open.

Kildare's Kevin Feely in action against Tyrone's Colm Cavanagh. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Kildare's Kevin Feely in action against Tyrone's Colm Cavanagh. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

None of the beaten provincial finalists will fancy a date with the Ulster powerhouse in the last 12 as they have rediscovered their defensive mojo.

Colm Cavanagh, who adopted his usual role as sweeper, admits that serious soul-searching was required after their provincial exit and that they were never going to deviate too far away from a system which has served them well in recent years.

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"We had to look at ourselves, we didn't play well as a unit or individually (against Donegal). As a team, we just didn't perform so we looked at what we did that day and we had to change it," Cavanagh said.

"There was nothing good about that day and we knew that when we came into the Qualifiers, we had to get it right from early on. So hopefully that was the blip that we've had this time, and we can go on ahead from it.

The two-time All-Star added: "We're not going to abandon what we have done over the last number of years, we have done a lot of work on it. But at the same time, we haven't got to where we wanted to be either. We got to an All-Ireland semi-final, we lost. We got to an All-Ireland final, we lost."

Their style has been effective until running into the Dubs - who dismantled them in their last two knockout meetings - and Cavanagh acknowledges that they may have to change it up again down the line.

"We know we may have to do something different, because every time we have come up against Dublin, they have turned us over, and other teams will be able to turn us over. So we have to have more than just that one style," he said.

For Cian O'Neill and the Lilies, there was no chance to summon the 'Newbridge or Nowhere' spirit from 12 months ago as they were chasing the game from the outset with Michael Cassidy's seventh-minute goal providing the visitors with a platform which they used expertly.

Mick O'Grady's 50th-minute dismissal sealed their fate as Tyrone made full use of the extra body to coast home but O'Neill - who has served four years in charge - wouldn't be drawn on his future and rued their absentees as their disappointing season came to a close.

"It would be different if they got whitewashed there, but they got going," O'Neill said of his side. "My mind was set on a recovery session and planning for next week. "The guys, although they'll be devastated with the defeat, they died with their boots on, and never stopped trying to play. You just want to spend a bit of time with the players and backroom team now.

"That's really where my head is at. When you're looking to the lads in the stand and you're seeing Paul Cribbin, Paddy Brophy, Niall Kelly tweaked his hamstring in the warm-up, Kevin Flynn, Fionn Dowling.

"Tony Archibald, Daniel (Flynn) not with us, you almost would have had a competing attacking line not available. That didn't make it easy but it still doesn't get over the disappointment."

Having witnessed first hand what Dublin can do - they suffered a 15-point defeat to Jim Gavin's men in the Leinster semi-final - O'Neill is in no doubt about the destination of Sam Maguire come September 1.

"Dublin are on a different level. We went in with our eyes wide open to that Leinster semi-final. Even with the injuries we had going into that, we were still confident that we would give them a rattle," O'Neill said.

"Then you're standing there on the line and thinking these guys are on a different level. I still think they are a level above but Tyrone will be one of those teams who will be giving it."

There was only one team in it early on with Tyrone getting a quick start - they led 1-4 to 0-1 at the end of the first quarter - to set the tone.

Kildare were in trouble on their kickout with Kevin Feely's influence negated but the Athy midfielder handed his side a lifeline when firing to the net in the 31st minute.

They only trailed by three at the break - 1-9 to 1-6 - but when Tyrone hit four of the first five points after the break and O'Grady got his marching orders, it was all she wrote with Darren McCurry notching their second goal on 63 minutes.

SCORERS - Tyrone: P Harte 0-7 (3f); C McShane 0-5 (2f); D McCurry 1-2; M Cassidy 1-0; M Donnelly 0-3; F Burns 0-2; C Cavanagh, R Brennan, C McAliskey 0-1 each. Kildare: K Feely 1-2; A Tyrrell 0-5 (4f); F Conway, N Flynn (2f) 0-3 each; T Moolick, P Kelly 0-1 each.

TYRONE - N Morgan 6; HP McGeary 7, R McNamee 7, R Brennan 7; M Cassidy 7, K McGeary 7, F Burns 8; C Cavanagh 7, B Kennedy 6; M Donnelly 8, N Sludden 6, C Meyler 6; P Harte 8, C McShane 8, D McCurry 7. Subs: B McDonnell 6 for Kennedy (BC, 22), M McKernan 6 for K McGeary (55), C McAliskey 6 for Sludden (60), K Coney for McCurry (66), C McLaughlin for HP McGeary (71), A McCrory for Cassidy inj (72).

KILDARE - M Donnellan 6; M Dempsey 6, M O'Grady 6, P Kelly 7; C O'Donoghue 7, E Doyle 6, D Hyland 6; K Feely 7, F Conway 8; D Slattery 6, C Healy 6, K Cribbin 6; A Tyrrell 6, B McCormack 5, N Flynn 6. Subs: J Hyland 7 for McCormack inj (11), E O'Flaherty for O'Donoghue (11 blood), O'Donoghue for O'Flaherty (12), T Moolick 7 for Cribbin (49), M Barrett 6 for Healy (52), O'Flaherty 6 for Slattery (60), K O'Callaghan for Flynn (65), C McNally for Hyland (68).

REF - P Neilan (Roscommon)

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