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Harte thrilled as Red Hands finally end eight-year Kerry jinx

Tyrone 1-16 Kerry 0-14

By Declan Bogue

There might not have been much in it with league survival assured for both and no chance of reaching a league final, but Mickey Harte was quick to note that it had been said to him with regularity that Tyrone had not beaten Kerry in a long number of years before this encounter.

Eight years in fact, when a repeated failure of Kerry's to clear the ball over the lines and finish the game - as per the rule of the 2010 season, let Colm Cavanagh nab a last-second goal in a Saturday night tussle.

There are few survivors from that game on either side, but still if there is a marker to lay down, Tyrone wouldn't shy away from it. This win puts a gloss on a season that was looking rough after they lost three of their opening four games to Galway, Dublin and Monaghan.

It also gives them a handsome looking tally of 5-43 from the last three games against Donegal, Mayo and Kerry.

And still, the narrative will hardly alter from Tyrone being labelled overly-defensive.

"I suppose it was a bit of role-reversal from last year when we started strong and finished poorly. I suppose that's not a bad thing to be able to turn it around. After four games we only had two points and it was dicey looking," acknowledged Harte after Declan McClure's second half goal three minutes from time opened up a seven points gap that rewarded Tyrone for their industry and punished a Kerry side that shorn of so many nailed-on Championship starters, went 26 minutes without registering a score in the second half.

Harte continued: "The Donegal win was so important, Mayo were excellent and I suppose a lot of people were telling us it was a long time since we beat Kerry and I suppose it is nice to put the record straight any day of the week. I am very pleased with the outcome."

His opposite number, Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice, had the look of a man who was free from all the cares of the world afterwards, but wasn't sparing the rod when he stated: "We got the first point of the second half but then we were a bit rudderless at times and I think Tyrone played very well. We were a bit lucky not to be beaten by more, to be honest.

"There is plenty there for us to be working on."

They have the time and the talent. Of the successful minor teams of recent years, Jason Foley has emerged as a fine full back and limited Lee Brennan to one point from play while Tom O'Sullivan kept Ronan O'Neill starved of ball.

However, the exchanges were of a challenge match nature.

As the first half wore on however, as Fitzmaurice said, the Kerry shape became a little baggy. Ronan McNabb exchanged a give and go with Frank Burns and had a sight on goal but his left foot shot wasn't caught with any purchase and Tom O'Sullivan took it away.

In the next minute Cathal McShane - excellent throughout - took a sideline ball off Peter Harte, dashed 40 metres and broke a tackle or two before drilling a shot that flew over, rather than under the crossbar.

Further points from Kieran McGeary and two from the dead ball from goalkeeper Niall Morgan and Lee Brennan swiped the lead for Tyrone at half-time, 0-10 to 0-9.

The second half started in tit-for-tat fashion until Tyrone compiled 1-4 without replay to streak ahead and rid themselves of an ugly stat - all the more important given that their next game will be at the same venue, which hasn't always been kind to Tyrone, when Monaghan come to town.

"When I reflect on last year, I believe we were getting plenty of scores, particularly when the summertime came.

"We were getting lots of high scores and not conceding a lot," Harte explained.

"Just because we have done well in these three games doesn't mean that anything is perfect, that we are a finished product. It means we are a work in progress. We won't be sitting back and thinking we are something wonderful."

And with that, Harte sent his players back off for a busy April with their clubs, having secured a weekend away for the county team with club league games to be staged on that Friday night.

Kerry meet the winners of Clare and Limerick on June 2, but Fitzmaurice surprisingly revealed they have no intention to undergo their tradition Portugal pre-Championship tuning-up week.

"They're usually effective but we're not doing one between league and Championship," he said.

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