Tyrone join the league of legends
Tyrone 1-15 Kerry 0-14
It gets no better than this. Tyrone deservedly took their place in the pantheon of truly great teams when they claimed their third All Ireland football title in six years at Croke Park.
And in doing so, they inflicted a mortal wound on Kerry’s tradition, pride and psyche.
The sheer persuasive force of Tyrone’s skill, commitment and physicality eventually consigned Kerry’s dreams of glory to rubble in a gripping, tension-laden encounter that more than atoned for the depressingly one-sided encounters that passed for All Ireland deciders over the past two years.
This time Tyrone’s energy, tactical nous and supreme teamwork carried them onto a higher plain and, indeed, straight into the history books.
In lifting the Sam Maguire Cup for the second time in his distinguished career, Brian Dooher became the first northern captain to lap up this single honour.
But this was not an occasion that was about individual honours, splendidly though so many of the Tyrone side played.
It was about rampant desire, a stunning work ethic and an all-consuming effort that eventually left Kerry sagging on the ropes.
The Kingdom, pressing for a third title on the trot and anxious to make it 36 in all, may have flashed out their own message of hope in the first half but after the break they played second fiddle to a Tyrone side that scaled new heights in what has proven a memorable championship campaign for them.
Kerry fell to a better team, a team well versed in the art of defending, finishing and, perhaps most importantly, protecting a lead at the most vital stage of the match.
Forced to start without goalkeeper John Devine, whose father died on Saturday, and the injured Brian McGuigan and Ciaran Gourley, Tyrone moved Joe McMahon to left-full-back and brought Ryan Mellon and Martin Penrose into their attack.
But when Colm Cooper gave every impression of becoming a one-man terror squad in the first-half through the efficient way he helped to unwrap Tyrone on occasions, the Ulster side had cause for concern.
With Dara O Se imposing himself at midfield and Declan O’Sullivan weaving patterns both in defence and attack, the Kingdom underscored their drive for another helping of glory.
But when Sean Cavanagh began to impose his authority up front, Tyrone suddenly began to look a much more potent force.
And despite holding a marked edge in midfield and creating more chances, Kerry found themselves hanging onto a slender one-point lead at half-time, their vulnerability underlined just before the break when Kieran Donaghy, Aidan O’Mahony and Dara O See were shown yellow cards by referee Maurice Deegan who was quietly efficient throughout.
If anything, this virus of indiscipline was to prove the precursor to Kerry’s downfall.
When it was followed by the only goal of the game in the opening minute of the second-half, the vision of a third successive All Ireland title became distinctly blurred.
Ironically, it was substitutes Stephen O’Neill and Kevin Hughes who did the spadework that paved the way for Tommy McGuigan’s tap-in.
And at 1-8 to 0-8, Tyrone had been presented with the opportunity to seize control. They needed no second invitation.
Kerry, already showing signs of trauma, threatened when the impressive Cooper (2), Walsh, Tomas O’Se and Dara O Se shared in a points blitz that actually eased them into a one-point lead (0-14 to 1-10).
But from the 56th minute, Tyrone’s entry into the annals of GAA folklore was slowly but surely copper-fastened.
The Red Hands may have absorbed shrapnel wounds along the way but in taking complete control of the battle they emphasised just why they are a very special side.
They showed, too, just why they are the ghosts who have stalked the Kingdom for the past five years.
The hurt that Kerry suffered in ’03 and ’05 at the hands of Mickey Harte’s men was not just replicated here — it was amplified.
The majestic Sean Cavanagh looped over two glorious points in the 56th and 63rd minutes, Enda McGinley fired over a fine effort in the 69th minute and Hughes, who made a big contribution overall, also caressed a neat score.
Yet Tyrone were fortunate that goalkeeper Pascal McConnell was at his best to deflect an O’Sullivan shot for a ‘45’.
Be that as it may, the scare did not impact on Tyrone’s morale. They merely turned up the heat, substitute Colm Cavanagh steering over another score.
It was the final flourish from a side that radiated a glorious light throughout the second-half and, in the process, once again invaded the very chambers of the Kerry mind-set.
The hairline cracks that had appeared in Kerry’s demeanour in the closing stages of the second-half ultimately proved portents of what for them was a catastrophe rather than merely a defeat.
For Tyrone, immortality beck
ons. And if the players have thrust themselves onto a special pedestal, manager Harte has joined an elite corps who have masterminded unparalleled success for their counties.
It is no more than he deserves.
Tyrone scorers: S Cavanagh (0-5), T McGuigan (1-1), B Dooher, R Mellon, D Harte, E McGinley, C Cavanagh, M Penrose, K Hughes, C McCullagh, S O’Neill (0-1 each).
Kerry scorers: C Cooper (0-7), Declan O’Sullivan (0-2), B Sheehan (0-2), T O Se, D O Se, T Walsh (0-1 each).
TYRONE: P McConnell; R McMenamin, Justin McMahon, J McMahon, D Harte, C Gormley, P Jordan; C Holmes, E McGinley; B Dooher, B M Penrose, R Mellon; T McGuigan, S Cavanagh, C McCullagh.
Substitutes: S O’Neill for McCullagh (25 mins), K Hughes for Holmes (half-time), B McGuigan for Penrose (50 mins), O Mulligan for Mellon (51 mins), C Cavanagh for T McGuigan (67 mins).
KERRY: D Murphy; M O Se, T O’Sullivan, P Reidy; T O Se, A O’Mahony, K Young; D O Se, S Scanlon; B Sheehan, D O’Sullivan, E Brosnan; C Cooper, K Donaghy, T Walsh. Substitutes: Darren O’Sullivan for Brosnan (42 mins), T Griffin for Scanlon (51 mins), P Galvin for Walsh (58 mins), D Moran for Sheehan (67 mins).
Referee: Maurice Deegan (Laois)