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Kerry deliver knockout blow to Tyrone

Tyrone 0-17 - Kerry 1-14

By Declan Bogue

Published 06/04/2015

Down and out: Tyrone’s Sean Cavanagh and Mattie Donnelly feel the
pain of relegation
Down and out: Tyrone’s Sean Cavanagh and Mattie Donnelly feel the pain of relegation

The clock read 37.26 in the second half when referee Joe McQuillan finally signalled the end of a peculiar league season that ended in relegation for Tyrone, but not defeat.

A couple of hours later, children were still getting programmes, jerseys and everything else signed by the Tyrone players doing their annual meet-and-greet with the fans at their final home league game of the season.

They had drawn with Kerry and will know that for small margins and the curve of a goalpost, and the luck that it might have taken for one of their eight wides to drift inside the post, they would have stayed up.

Others might utter profanities and tell them to play behind closed doors, but the Tyrone public still love their team. Red Hands selector Gavin Devlin - speaking to the media with Mickey Harte recuperating from an operation last week - reiterated that point when asked if the performance had restored some pride in the side after their heavy defeat to Donegal last week.

"We were disappointed, of course we were, against Donegal," said the two-time All-Ireland winner. "I don't think in terms of pride - our pride is always intact, we're from Tyrone for God sake - how would our pride be anywhere else?"

And those that might guard jealously Kerry's reputation as Keepers of the Flame might consider that they conceded 34 frees here as opposed to Tyrone's 14.

Tyrone pulled a rabbit out of a hat with Johnny Curran named to start in goal, the Coalisland man's first time between the sticks since the Division Two league final against Kildare in 2012.

Another familiar face was elsewhere, former assistant manager Tony Donnelly back on the sideline in the absence of Harte. Always known as a 'player's man', Donnelly's re-introduction, no matter how temporary, must have been a boon to a beleaguered playing staff under pressure and Devlin insisted that even though Donnelly thought he was out, they are going to try and pull him back in again.

At half-time, Tyrone were halfway there, leading 0-8 to 0-7. Kerry had tried tossing a few high balls in towards Kieran Donaghy. But, with Justin McMahon reprising his 2008 final performance against the Kerry captain, along with Tiernan McCann and Mattie Donnelly sweeping between the defensive lines, they had to abandon this plan after the first quarter.

Instead, points came from Bryan Sheehan's boot from free kicks and from distance by both teams as they found the best way past each other's defensive fortifications was to go over it.

With both sides deciding to open up a little more for the second half, a brilliant half of football. Kerry had already sent on Paul Geaney for Barry John Keane after the first quarter, but with that added height, the diagonal ball to Donaghy produced huge yields.

A ball in from Jonathan Lyne was fielded by Donaghy who transferred to half-time sub Darran O'Sullivan and although his shot was superbly blocked down by Mattie Donnelly, Geaney was on hand to squeeze home. Geaney and O'Sullivan would further benefit from Donaghy's selflessness with subsequent points.

Tyrone had their chances too and another surprise inclusion, Joe McMahon, was presented with the ball in front of goal but blasted over.

With 10 minutes remaining, Kealy's poor kick-out to Mark Griffin was put under pressure by Sean Cavanagh and while he had the chance to scoop the ball into the arms of the onrushing Connor McAliskey, it was a tad too strong and the chance was missed.

At the other end, the excellent Paul Murphy went through on goal after Aidan McCrory failed to deal with a cross-field goal, but Curran capped a fine overall display with a brave save.

Tyrone reeled off four points to leave an intriguing finish, with Mattie Donnelly thumping the post with a left-foot drive in injury-time. But Kerry, with Colm Cooper appearing for his first competitive action for 14 months, had enough to see out the draw and secure survival.

Tyrone: J Curran; C McCarron, J McMahon, R McNamee; A McCrory, R McNabb 0-1, R McKenna; C Cavanagh, P McNulty; T McCann, S Cavanagh 0-6, 6f, P Harte 0-1; D McCurry 0-7, 3f, M Donnelly 0-1, P Hughes. Subs: Joe McMahon 0-1, for McNulty, C McAliskey for Hughes (half-time), PJ Lavery for McCann (51m), R O'Neill for Justin McMahon (58m), C McCann for McKenna (67m)

Yellow cards: S Cavanagh (29m), Donnelly (49m), McNamee (49m)

Black cards: 0

Red cards: 0

Kerry: B Kealy; M Griffin, S Enright, P Murphy 0-2; J Lyne, P Crowley, K Young; A Maher 0-1, D Moran 0-1; A Fitzgerald, B Sheehan 0-4, 3f, J Buckley 0-2; S O'Brien, K Donaghy (Capt) 0-1, BJ Keane. Subs: P Geaney 1-2 for Keane (17m), D O'Sullivan 0-1, for A Fitzgerald (half-time), M ÓSé for Crowley (54m), C Cooper for Sheehan (62m), F Fitzgerald for Young (64m)

Yellow cards: Buckley (9m), Sheehan (49m), Crowley (56m), Maher (59m), ÓSé (61m)

Black cards: O'Brien (40m, replaced by T Walsh

Red cards: 0

Referee: Joe McQuillan (Cavan).

Belfast Telegraph

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