Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

Too little, too late for Tyrone

Tyrone 2-12 Kerry 1-16

Tyrone's Sean Cavanagh is challenged by Kerry's Anthony Maher
Tyrone's Sean Cavanagh is challenged by Kerry's Anthony Maher

Kerry took the points against Tyrone, Paul Mannion stole a late point for Dublin to draw against Donegal and the whole sequence of events left the All-Ireland champions relegated on the last day of the season on their own turf at Ballybofey.

Results elsewhere mean Tyrone will take on Kildare next Sunday in the league semi-final, the double-header completed by the meeting of Dublin and Mayo.

For the sheer beauty of their football alone, any neutral sympathies would have been satisfied with Kerry's reward for their boldness in Healy Park, where a deceptively-strong wind dictated the usual see-saw nature of these league games against the two counties that ran their own battles for an unofficial crown of 'Team of the Decade' during the noughties.

With Mark Donnelly stationed as sweeper and Patrick McNiece also funnelling back, Tyrone were constructed for a painstaking and grinding evening of football by systems early on.

However, in clogging up the centre and committing bodies to defence, they inexcusably left none other than Tomas OSe free.

Let out to pasture like that, such a thoroughbred was never going to just simply mind his patch. But to single him out for his contribution to the first half tells so little of the overall picture.

Kerry started off like a highlights reel of their famous 'Golden Years' DVD, only updated for the digital generation.

Dropping deep and torturing Joe McMahon, Colm Cooper looked like he has been playing centre-forward all his life. He threaded through ball after ball, hitting Kieran Donaghy in space time and time again.

Ronan O'Neill levelled scores up for Tyrone on five minutes, but then Kerry hit seven unanswered points.

Although they were seven down after the first quarter, Tyrone kept their shape and trusted they would come good. Sean Cavanagh tried to rouse those around them with a shimmy and shot that pushed wide and Stephen O'Neill squeezed a typically-brilliant shot over.

However, any revival was crushed with Cooper majestically orchestrating the attack, while another rampage forward by Tomas OSe was rewarded when after a quick-fire exchange of passes with Donaghy and Darran O'Sullivan ended with OSe fisting to the net.

At half-time so much resembled the 2009 league meeting between these two teams at the same venue.

With Tyrone almost out of sight at the break, Mickey Harte instructed his players to throw their jerseys into a barrel, implying that they had sullied the white and red, before giving them new ones to go out and restore their own pride.

On that occasion they fashioned a defeat that felt like a victory.

This was much the same as Tyrone held Kerry scoreless for 25 minutes of the second half and piled on the pressure. A Stephen O'Neill goal kick-started matters and thereafter rousing points from Joe McMahon, subs Conor Gormley and Conor Clarke, along with two Darren McCurry frees kept it interesting.

The final moments were frantic with O'Neill jinking inside to hit a shot and from the deflection Ciaran McGinley hit the post.

In the second-last play McMahon floated in a '50' that Donaghy looked to collect, but it squirted from his grasp and Mark Donnelly bundled it over the line.

From Brendan Kealy's kickout, Cathal McCarron won the ball, but by then Marty Duffy felt the ride had gone on long enough after more than four minutes injury-time, a period that Kerry manager joked about with the Sligo official as he left the ground.

But still. Seldom has a loss ever felt as much as a win.

TYRONE: N Morgan (0-1, 1f); A McCrory, Justin McMahon, C McCarron; R McKenna, Joe McMahon (0-1), R McNamee; C Cavanagh, S Cavanagh (0-2, 1f); P McNiece, P Harte (0-1), Mark Donnelly (1-0); D McCurry (0-2, 2f), S O'Neill (1-1), R O'Neill (0-1, 1f)

Subs: Penrose for R O'Neill [24m], Clarke (0-2) for McKenna, Gormley (0-1) for McNamee [35m], McGinley for McNiece [51m], McAliskey for McCurry [70m].

KERRY: B Kealy; M OSe, M Griffin, S Enright; T OSe (1-1), E Brosnan, K Young; A Maher, J Buckley (0-3, 1f); J Lyne (0-1), C Cooper (0-3, 2f), P Galvin; Declan O'Sullivan (0-3), K Donaghy (0-3), Darran O'Sullivan (0-2)

Subs: McGuire for Brosnan [4m], Walsh for Galvin, O'Leary for Darran O'Sullivan [59m], B Sheehan for Buckley [67m], Crowley for T OSe [70m].

Referee: Martin Duffy [Sligo].

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