'We squeezed them' - Peter Keane lavishes praise on his Kerry players as Mickey Harte gives his verdict on Tyrone
PETER KEANE has praised his players – and subs – for propelling Kerry into the All-Ireland SFC final thanks to a vastly improved second half showing in Croke Park this afternoon.
The Kingdom looked in deep trouble at the break, trailing Tyrone by four, but a huge turnaround saw them surge to a three-point victory and a date with history against the Dubs.
Asked what had made the difference in their 1-18 to 0-18 triumph, Keane replied: "I think our movement was much, much better. I think we squeezed them a small little bit more further up the field as well.
"I think we prepared to take them on, which we weren't doing that well in the first half. And, again, the accuracy was better in that second half than it was in the first half."
Kerry's bench press made a notable difference too, especially Jack Sherwood who was introduced at the midpoint and veteran target man Tommy Walsh who had a hand in several scores after his 51st minute entry.
"I think our subs all responded and gave us something," their manager outlined.
"And look, at the end of the day, that's what you're looking from any team and any panel, and that's why you're building a panel and that's why you're bringing fellas around with you – that when they get the opportunity they'll add something to it.
"And you're right, the two boys (Sherwood and Walsh) did very well - but the other fellas did well too when they came in."
Keane expanded: "The first half was very tactical. I suppose we kicked a lot of wides in that first half which didn't help our situation, but the second half was much better.
"That's what we did expect, that it would be a tactical game, and we managed to open up a bit more in the second half. Thankfully we got out on the right side of that."
The one dark note for Kerry was a black card for 'Man of the Match' Stephen O'Brien, whose match-turning 1-2 in the second half ended with a black card in the sixth minute of injury-time, having hauled down Connor McAliskey.
It was O'Brien's third black card of the season, following earlier indiscretions against Galway in the league and Meath a week ago, which under rule carries a one-match ban.
Thus, unless the Central Hearings Committee overturns one of the above three cards, O'Brien stands to miss the September 1 decider against Dublin.
The Kerry boss declined to go into too much detail on what is sure to be an inevitable appeal.
"Ah, there are some fellas outside talking about that all right when I was coming in. But, look, we'll look at that tonight when we go home, or in the morning, and we'll see what happens from there," Keane said.
Meanwhile, Mickey Harte has argued that Tyrone were victims of some "harsh" refereeing calls in the second half as his Red Hand charges faltered within sight of an All-Ireland final.
Kerry sharpshooter Seán O'Shea nailed four second half frees as the Munster champions surged from four down to win by three. The first one, for a foul on Paul Geaney, appeared very debatable but long-serving Laois whistler Maurice Deegan also made a concerted effort to clamp down on off-the-ball fouling after the interval.
Asked specifically if he thought the referee had been harsh on Tyrone, Harte responded: "Well, that's an interesting question you ask. He obviously played a big part in it because he was very important, he made a lot of decisions ... you certainly would have looked at a few decisions and thought they were harsh."
Asked about any in particular, the Tyrone manager replied: "I felt it seemed to be easy to get frees at certain stages of the game - and this seeing things in the distance ahead of the game.
"One I thought was really strange, we were coming out with the ball, Mattie Donnelly is coming out to try and present for it and he's blown for holding.
"Now, I wonder why he would want to hold the defender? He'd want the ball, not to be holding the defender.
"But these things happen and I'm sure everyone will look at it through their own coloured lens … and to mine, in the immediate reflection, I though there were a number of decisions that weren't good for us."
For all that, Harte conceded that Kerry were a team transformed in the second half.
"I thought we had a good first half and probably felt we could have been a wee bit further ahead - and that might have given us more of a platform to go on with," he reflected.
"We did expect there would be something more to Kerry, and I think we caught them a wee bit by surprise in the first half and they had time to reflect on that and regroup.
"They came out with a different attire in the second half … they were up for the challenge, up for the fight. As the game went on, that became very apparent.
"And I suppose when it got close, a point for point game, a goal was going to be major for any team and that's the way it turned out.
"A goal meant Kerry only had to cover point for point and they were going to be in business. If we got a goal, I'd like to think we would have done the same thing, but we didn't and they did and that's the way the cookie crumbles sometimes."
Harte expanded: "Kerry were different, they played with a different system in the second half ... I just think that half time is a dangerous place.
"If you are going well, you don't want half-time at all. We were going well up to half-time and that's a time-out to be able to make adjustments with settled minds — that was half-time at a bad time.
"You try to talk the right language to get your team to win the second half. That's what we tried to, and we would have been in the final. We didn't manage that, which is a shame," he concluded.