Tyrone left with final pain
Tyrone 0-11 Kildare 0-16: At the fifth time of asking, Kieran McGeeney’s Kildare side have beaten Tyrone.
The Division Two trophy will be feted for a night and then stowed away never to be talked about again, but the manner in which Kildare won here will be drawn upon as a source of strength for some time to come.
As you might expect from a team that were coming off their training week in Portugal, Kildare were bright and eager in the opening exchanges.
Johnny Doyle began the scoring and Eoghan O’Flaherty added to the tally with a free, coming from Peter Harte lifting the ball off the ground.
Tyrone soon clicked into gear though. Niall McKenna set up Mark Donnelly for a point and the scorer returned the favour four minutes later when Tyrone took the lead for the first time on 15 minutes.
Such was the possession Kildare enjoyed though, they forced Tyrone into a number of personal fouls and Mikey Conway was able to punish them for it.
Tomas O’Connor was causing all sorts of havoc on the edge of the Tyrone square, laying off to James Kavanagh for a point on 20 minutes, which prompted Conor Gormley to station himself beside the towering Clane man.
Gormley was forced to foul |O’Connor on the half hour mark which preceded another converted free kick, and a particularly dangerous movement three minutes later was halted when Cathal McCarron hauled down Conway.
Another high ball into the heart of the Tyrone defence prompted sheer panic.
O’Connor scooped it over the head of first Gormley, then goalkeeper Johnny Curran and, while it hung in the air, Aidan McCrory got back to prevent what would have been a certain goal, O’Connor punching it onto the crossbar and over. In the aftermath, O’Connor fell onto McCrory, who departed injured.
Just before the half ended, a speared pass in from Owen Mulligan found Stephen O’Neill inside for a half-chance at goal, but it rolled just wide to leave the minimum at the break.
The second half belonged to Padraig Fogarty of St Laurences, and a standout performer in recent times for the Kildare under-21 side.
Fogarty came on with 23 minutes left on the clock, and while he helped himself to three points from play, he also won two frees that were converted.
His efforts inspired the kind of final push that Tyrone themselves might have thought they owned the patent on.
From Conway levelling the scores at 10 points each with 10 minutes left, they hit a further six points to put the contest beyond doubt. In reply, Tyrone’s game perished on the Kildare formation.
Half-backs McCarron, Harte and Damian McCaul were dealt with as soon as they raised a gallop, Kildare targeting Tyrone’s most impressive line with a mixture of awareness and no little aggression.
This was an important game for Armagh legend McGeeney and the spirit of his Kildare side.
Not only was it a chance to win a first national trophy of his managerial career — now in its fifth year — but rather astonishingly Kildare had not won a national title since they beat Cavan in the 1928 All-Ireland final.
It is true that they have established themselves as a team to be respected, but not a side to be feared.
Perhaps this game changes things. The fact remains that they have yet to beat a team in the top bracket in summer football and their last two Championship exits were to Down and Donegal, teams not assured of being included in such a bracket.
Tyrone romped through this league campaign but in recent weeks their casualty list has grown, robbing them of attackers Tommy McGuigan, Kyle Coney and Ronan O’Neill.
This was their 13th match this season, having won every game previously with a measure of comfort.
But as manager Mickey Harte commented, their playing pool has become stretched and the lack of numbers was perhaps always going to take its toll.
But other Ulster sides will feel that a certain lustre has been stripped off them heading into the Championship.
Tyrone: J Curran; A McCrory (Joe McMahon, 34), C Gormley, PJ Quinn; C McCarron, P Harte, D McCaul (Sean O’Neill, 63); A Cassidy, C Cavanagh (Murphy, bloodsub 36-46, 70m); R McNabb, M Donnelly (0-2), S Cavanagh (0-1); O Mulligan (0-4, 3f), N McKenna (0-1) (Penrose, 66), S O’Neill (0-3, 2f). Yellow cards: C Cavanagh (52), Gormley (59), McCarron (69m).
Kildare: S Connolly; P Kelly, H McGrillin, O Lyons; E Bolton, M O’Flaherty, E Callaghan (0-1); M Foley (Flynn, 68), P O’Neill; E O’Flaherty (0-3, 2f, 1x’45’), M Conway (0-5, 4f), J Doyle (0-2, 1sideline); A Smith (Fogarty (0-3), 47), T O’Connor (0-1), J Kavanagh (0-1). Yellow cards: Kavanagh (15), O’Neill (53), M O’Flaherty (70).
Referee: David Coldrick (Meath).