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Harte joy as Tyrone weather the storm

Tyrone 0-14 Kerry 0 -13


Closing in: Kerry’s Michael Burns puts pressure on Niall Sludden

Closing in: Kerry’s Michael Burns puts pressure on Niall Sludden

�INPHO/Bryan Keane

Closing in: Kerry’s Michael Burns puts pressure on Niall Sludden

Just like that, Tyrone's season feels like it has been transformed on a mucky day in Edendork.

But we must not get ahead of ourselves here either.

This was still a National League match in the depths of February, played in an unfamiliar ground because Healy Park wasn't fit for Storm Ciara.

But there were plus points popping up everywhere, like the sprightly Darren 'Dazzler' McCurry puffing his chest out and turning it on for the home crowd with a virtuoso display of six points. We'll come back to him in a minute.

First, a word on the St Malachy's club of Edendork.

The set-up on the fringes of Dungannon were given warning that they might host Kerry late on Saturday night, and the effort it took to do so was yet another demonstration of the effortless efficiency of GAA clubs. They loved having what they termed themselves, 'The Kingdom'.

Their clubman Niall Morgan was assured in almost everything he did, popping over four frees on his home ground.

Cathal McShane bounded onto the field just days after reaching his decision that he would stay in Gaelic football and turn down the advances of the Adelaide Crows to play professional sport in Australia.

He came off the bench to nail a free he had been fouled for.

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte said: "We were all delighted that he made the decision to stay and play Gaelic football.

"He's a super player, you will only see him getting better. That's only a taste of what he can do; he's a physical presence, a really good footballer."

Asked if he thought the Owen Roes man might have been gone, Harte continued: "It's not that I didn't think he was gone, he hadn't made up his mind. We were aware that he was considering his options.

"I always said that as long as he hadn't signed anything for the AFL I was still optimistic that he would deal with us and thankfully, through the auspices of the good people of Tyrone, he is staying."

Tactically, everything the Red Hands planned came off. Harte had one of those days where he showed that some of the discourse around his fading powers is total nonsense.

They sat in deep in the first half and rode out the sheets of rain and wind, going in 0-8 to 0-4 behind at the break.

With the wind at their backs for the second period they went after Kerry aggressively, collecting the first four consecutive points of the half and building from there.

On a damp pitch that was cutting up, there wasn't going to be a great deal of champagne football, but when you are so clinical from the dead ball you can win these sorts of games most times.

Kerry scored one point in the second half from play, and that a special effort from David Clifford.

With Sean O'Shea matching Clifford's tally of half a dozen scores, they had very little threat elsewhere with Rory Brennan holding Paul Geaney scoreless.

They were unlucky in that late on in the game, Tyrone substitute Ben McDonnell wrestled Clifford to the ground.

The Errigal Ciaran man was unquestionably the aggressor, but after referee Fergal Kelly consulted his umpire, he came to the baffling conclusion that both should receive yellow cards.

Having collected one in the first half, Clifford was dismissed for the last 10 minutes.

Kerry manager Peter Keane tends to avoid answering these kinds of questions, but he did state: "It is easy pickings to say that there are two fellows involved and I will give both of them both yellows and because he had picked up one early in the first half, two yellows make a red."

Asked if Clifford is getting even closer attention than he used to, Keane added: "I suppose whether it is this year, last year, the year before… he is a good player and you are going to mark a good player whoever he is."

With Frank Burns and Colm Cavanagh acting as a double sweeper system in the first half, Harte threw a cordon of players across the 45m line for Kerry to try to break down.

On a heavy day when they had to run the ball, the home side finished much fresher. Daniel Kerr was the only forward kept high up the field and Kerry made hay early on.

The thing was, the scores were all from frees apart from two amazing efforts from distance by Clifford. Tyrone's response in the storm was four frees in the first half, which came from the Edendork duo Morgan and McCurry.

After the break, Rory Brennan steamed forward for a point and Conor Meyler kicked an excellent mark from distance. Then, McCurry took over. After one from play he notched two frees in the 57th and 63rd minutes to put Tyrone ahead for the first time in the match.

The teams were reduced to 13 apiece with black cards for Ronan McNamee and Jack Barry on 65 minutes.

On 71 minutes, McCurry had a sideline beside the Tyrone dugout, 45m out from the endline. In his direct view, he could see his home place, the closest dwelling place to the pitch. He made the shot and boy, did the home crowd love it.

A few minutes later and he claimed a brilliant mark and converted it. The man who stepped out of county football two years ago was lighting the game up.

The great Maurice Fitzgerald, watching on as Kerry selector, might have tipped his cap in acknowledgement.

A good day for Tyrone. Maybe even great.

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