Mickey Harte stunned as Kerry run riot against Tyrone
Kerry 3-15 Tyrone 0-9: Mickey Harte couldn't hide his frustration in a conference room above the dressing room end of the Dick Fitzgerald stadium, as he began explaining a 15-point loss to Kerry that drastically alters the perceptions of these two teams.
"It's devastating. It's not what you expect from players in a Tyrone jersey," he said.
The matchday programme had it that the largest margin between the two teams came in a league semi-final in Croke Park, an eight-point win for Kerry.
Here, Kerry doubled that margin. The bad news for Tyrone fans is that it could have been by more.
As early as the third minute James O'Donoghue showed his marker Barry Tierney a clean pair of heels, was fouled and floated a quick free to half-back Peter Crowley, who was foiled by an alert stop by Niall Morgan.
O'Donoghue's shot for goal was foiled by Morgan on five minutes and there was a feeling that Kerry profligacy might cost them as they clung to Tyrone coat-tails by five Bryan Sheehan points.
Most of what happened in the first half will be forgotten, with incredible frees from Niall Morgan and Sheehan and Paddy McNeice spurning a gift of a chance when a Ronan O'Neill point attempt came back off the top of the post.
The reason for that was the second half scoreline. After traipsing in level at 0-8 each, Kerry hit 3-7 to Tyrone's 0-1.
Kerry strangled Tyrone's long kickouts to Colm Cavanagh, Anthony Maher and David Moran establishing their authority in that sector. When Morgan went short with his restarts to the likes of Conor Clarke, the Kerry forwards worked ferociously.
The half-time switch of Mattie Donnelly from the edge of the square with Sean Cavanagh travelling in the opposite direction produced a massive slump and the Tyrone captain was held to a rare scoreless day.
In their last two games, against Kildare and Kerry, they have conceded 4-36 and their defence requires reconstruction.
Mickey Harte put it in context. "It was a dreadful performance from our team.
"In all my time dealing with Tyrone teams, I've never, ever had a second half like that. In fact, that's the biggest defeat they've ever had, since minors, u21's or anything else."
He continued: "It's just not good enough, simple as that, and it's not a performance that anyone could be proud of.
"We can count our lucky blessings that we got the two points last weekend [against Kildare] because with that sort of performance there, we would definitely be relegation material, big time."
Ciaran McGinley was introduced as a sub at half-time and edged Tyrone in front in the first minute of the second half.
A thundering collision in the middle of the park between Daithí Casey and Ronan O'Neill ended with Kerry hands on the loose ball, Kieran O'Leary played a ball in that broke off Sheehan and O'Donoghue reacted fast, beat Tierney for pace and rattled the rainwater off the net for his first goal on 45 minutes.
From then on Tyrone floundered completely, ill-discipline in the tackle costing them as Sheehan's accuracy counted from frees and in replacements Paul Geaney, Darran O'Sullivan and Aidan O'Mahony, Kerry grew ever-stronger.
The second goal came from a David Moran ball in, the livewire O'Donoghue fastened onto the break and although Tierney got a half-block on the shot, it squirted into the net.
The final score completed O'Donoghue's hat-trick, another O'Leary delivery this time working through Geaney's hands and the Kerry attacker slid the ball low.
Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice skillfully swerved any request to indulge in theories as to Tyrone's collapse, instead saying: "When we got the scores it seemed to give us energy and we drove on, gave the lads a bit of heart.
"We knew after the way they came back against Kildare last weekend, we were conscious of that this week."
He added: "We have to give our lads a lot of credit, they made it tight at the back."
Harte had no problem extending his admiration of Kerry's display, when it was put to him that this was a performance that bore no resemblance to Tyrone teams of his time in charge.
"It may be unlike Tyrone of the past, but it was Tyrone today. Kerry definitely excelled. I said last week that after the start Kerry had in the league, they wouldn't want anyone other than us coming here because we seem to bring out the best in them, and the worst in us."
He added, "They showed today why that was the case, because they elevated their game. If they played like that, I can't see how they could have had no points before today's game."
Home to Westmeath next week for Tyrone. Expect a response.
KERRY: B Kelly; F Fitzgerald (Capt), M Griffin, S Enright; P Crowley, P Murphy, M ÓSé; A Maher 0-1, D Moran; D Casey, B Sheehan 0-8, 7f, D Walsh; BJ Keane 0-1, S O'Brien, J O'Donoghue 3-3. Subs: P Kilkenny for Enright (35m), K O'Leary 0-1 for Walsh, P Geaney 0-1 for Keane (45m), D O'Sullivan for Casey (50m), A O'Mahony for Crowley (58m), J Buckley for Sheehan (63m)
TYRONE: N Morgan 0-2, 2f; PJ Quinn, C Clarke, B Tierney; R McNamee, R McNabb, P Harte 0-2; C Cavanagh, S Cavanagh (Capt); E McKenna, S McGuigan, P McNiece; D McCurry 0-2, Matthew Donnelly, R O'Neill 0-2. Subs: C McGinley 0-1, for McNabb, Mark Donnelly for McNeice (half-time), N McKenna for McGuigan (56m), C Grugan for E McKenna (61m), A McRory for Quinn (65m)
Referee: Rory Hickey (Clare)