Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

Adrian Logan: You can do it, Tyrone

So, this is it. The most defining match in the history of the decade until the next time they meet!

This is the game which will decide who is the best team in the land. Kerry, on a roll and looking for their third All Ireland title in a row, up against their arch rivals and the county who always get in their faces and causes them to panic.

Tyrone are the one side who have always had the measure of this over-rated Kerry team. Don't get me wrong, Kerry are good. They are the benchmark of the current game but they aren't as good as some people would have us believe.

Yes, they are going for three in a row but the last two finals they have played have been tepid affairs to say the least. Having said that, if they do beat Tyrone they can rightly claim to be one of the best sides in the last 30 years.

But for me there has been something hollow about their last two All Ireland successes. For one reason only. Tyrone weren't there.

Back in 2003 it was "puke football" that won the day, according to Pat Spillane. The former Kerry star has never lived down that remark and it's something he is constantly reminded of every time he comes North for corporate event. He does try to laugh it off but it hurts.

In fact, all of Kerry are still hurting about that day five years ago. The 2005 final was another irritant for the Kingdom but 2003 was the real deal. That was the day the Northern upstarts, the new kids on the block, took on the old guard and beat them before going on to take their first ever title.

Now Tyrone are back and, if you listen to the commentators, Kerry can't wait. This is the day for revenge if you read between the lines. This is the day when real footballers will once and for all put Tyrone and all of Ulster in its place.

I, like you, can hardly wait.

Kerry have been the most consistent team in the land for the past few years but several times they have struggled to keep that title. Let's be fair, apart from the odd rattle from Cork it's been the Ulster men who have put them in their place. Armagh in the All Ireland final of 2002, Tyrone the following year and then in 2005 and this year Derry tore them apart in the League final in Parnell Park in Dublin.

In between all that Monaghan put them to the pin of their collar twice in the championship.

If you heed the press releases Kerry are the greatest thing since sliced loaf. But if you take a cold hard look at their play they are as cynical as the rest.

This season they have had their captain Paul Galvin suspended for six months for knocking ref Paddy Russell's notebook out of his hand. They have had several players receive a straight red card and in the semi-final replay over Cork they showed gamemanship tendancies by surrounding referee Jimmy White several times to argue with him.

That is the real Kerry and you wonder what would be said if it was the likes of Armagh and Tyrone who were at such antics.

Those are just some of the ingredients we have as we approach this game. Tickets are like gold dust. It's simple really. In the past competing counties used to get tickets from other counties but not so this year. Every neutral GAA man, woman and child wants to see this showdown of the heavyweights.

And there are so many sub plots. Kerry will have Darragh O Se back in the middle of the park and Galvin will play a part. Maybe even from the start. That might happen because Kerry are that anxious. On the Tyrone side there is the return of Stephen O’Neill.

I have read with amusement some of the comments of people in the media who should know better saying O’Neill should not have been allowed back in.

The players in Tyrone were delighted. This is a friend and a colleague who has been with them all for almost 10 years from minor level. A two-times All Ireland winner, a double All Star, a Texaco Sports Star and Player of the Year in 2005. No wonder the Tyrone players took a matter of minutes to make up their minds.

O‘Neill is a class act who will always be welcome in a Tyrone jersey and he will play a part in the All Ireland final. There's not much point having a Rolls Royce parked in the garage.

Kerry will come to the table hyped up and excited hoping to right all the wrongs of the past few years. Tyrone will arrive calm and delighted to be back in the big time. Few sides have greater confidence nor a greater love of the big stage which is match day in Croke Park.

Mickey Harte and his team were born for days like this. They actually enjoy all the hype and excitement surrounding the event. They embrace it rather than ignore it.

Harte for me is the best manager in the modern game. Managers can't play on the park but they can influence a game and Harte will do that. Pat O’Shea has yet to convince me. Put Kerry on the back foot and I wonder how their manager will react.

Remember Mickey Harte doesn't do calm for the sake of it. Mickey Harte is calm.

One final thing, if you want to see Sam Maguire coming home with the winning team then head to Aughnacloy next Monday night. Tyrone to win but not by much. And good luck to the Tyrone Minors against Mayo. Go on, make mine a double.

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