Tyrone back in All-Ireland race after ruthless performance exposes Kildare in Newbridge
Kildare 1-15 Tyrone 2-22
THE contrast couldn’t have been more sharply defined.
With five minutes to play in tonight’s round three qualifier under the baking Newbridge sun, Kildare’s supporters began to stream out of St. Conleth’s Park.
By that stage, Tyrone had their second goal, Kildare had been reduced to 14 men and Cian O’Neill was gone from the line.
Exactly 364 days previously, they had invaded the pitch to hoist and toast the same players after Kildare had ousted the beaten All-Ireland finalists, Mayo, in a fitting ending to their week of insurrection.
Kildare don’t enjoy playing Tyrone, as their record of one win in the last 11 meetings illustrates.
This game was a perfect illustration as to why.
Tyrone’s starting six forwards outscored Kildare’s from play by 1-12 to 0-2.
Were it not for the 1-5 contributed by their brilliant midfield pairing of Kevin Feely and Fergal Conway, Kildare would have struggled to an even greater extent.
As it was, they were only just keeping afloat here as Tyrone re-embraced the style that made them All-Ireland finalists last year.
Midway through the first half, Tyrone looked as though they might cruise into the fourth and final round of this year’s qualifier series.
By that stage, they were six points up and all the elements of their game were functioning to a high level.
No team has had their modus operandi scrutinised as intensely as Tyrone this year.
They were lauded for a direct, kicking approach the night they beat Dublin in the League and scorned for their naivety when Donegal tore them apart in the Ulster semi-final.
Here, Mickey Harte reverted to type.
They defended in a knit of 14 bodies, all certain of their place and role.
Mostly, they played with Cathal McShane at the edge of the square, exploiting his hugely impressive ability to win ball and then feeding the runners from deep.
McShane contributed three direct assists in the first half.
Kildare meanwhile, were devoured on their own kick-outs.
Mark Donnellan’s restarts were unusually slow whereas Niall Morgan’s were more swiftly released.
And other than Fergal Conway, none of the Kildare players seemed to possess the strength to break chunks off Tyrone’s defensive walls.
Conway had an epic first half, kicking three brilliant points from midfield while he was also the initial catalyst for the Kildare goal on 34 minutes that brought his team back within swinging distance.
Conway rode three challenges before passing to Peter Kelly, who brilliantly found Keith Cribbin who, in turn, squared to Kevin Feely.
That made it a three point game and at half-time, with that very margin between the teams, Kildare could scarcely believe their luck.
By that stage, Cian O’Neill was no longer standing in the Kildare dug-out after referee Paddy Neilan ordered him from the line over his protestations to a decision to award Tyrone a 45 in the 31st minute.
But in summation, despite the closeness of the score at half-time (1-9 to 1-6) everything happened a little bit easier for Tyrone.
And Kildare had to work twice as hard for half the reward.
That theme continued early in the second half.
Tyrone found little openings easier to come by and attacked them at pace.
Kildare ran up blind alleys and had to rely on some heroic scores from their midfield duo.
With ten minutes to go here, the starting Tyrone defence had outscored the starting Kildare attack from play by 1-3 to 0-1.
By that stage, Kildare had also been reduced to 14 men after Mick O’Grady was sent off for a second yellow card.
Tyrone used their numerical advantage to lure an already-tired Kildare team into tackling high up the pitch, and then deploy their runners to surge in behind.
In the 65th minute, we had the score that confirmed everything the evening had been pointing towards.
Darren McCurry was the last man in a calculated move and he palmed into the net.
Tyrone’s future seemed a little more certain then. They are back as a genuine All-Ireland force.
What comes next for Kildare is anyone’s guess.
SCORERS – Tyrone: P Harte 0-7 (4f), D McCurry 1-2, C McShane 0-5 (2f), M Donnelly 0-3, M Cassidy 1-0, F Burns 0-2, R Brennan, C Cavanagh, C McAliskey 0-1 each. Kildare: K Feely 1-2, A Tyrrell 0-5 (4f), F Conway, N Flynn (2f) 0-3, P Kelly, T Moolick 0-1 each.
TYRONE: N Morgan; R Brennan, R McNamee, HP McGeary; M Cassidy, K McGeary, F Burns; C Cavanagh, B Kennedy; M Donnelly, N Sludden, C Meyler; P Harte, C McShane, D McCurry. Subs: B McDonnell for Kennedy (22 black), M McKiernan for McGeary (55), C McAliskey for Sludden (60), K Coney for McCurry (65), K McLoughlin for HP McGeary (70), A McCrory for Cassidy (72)
KILDARE: M Donnellan; M Dempsey, M O’Grady, P Kelly; C O’Donoghue, E Doyle, D Hyland; K Feely, F Conway; D Slattery, C Healy, K Cribbin; A Tyrrell, B McCormack, N Flynn. Subs: J Hyland for McCormack (11inj), T Moolick for Cribbin (50), M Barrett for Healy (52), E O’Flatherty for Slattery (60), K O’Callaghan for Flynn (64), C McNally for Hyland (67)
REF: P Neilan (Roscommon)