Tyrone prove a class above Kildare in Newbridge

Homeside outplayed in first half and fall short after rousing rally in the second


Tyrone 1-11 Kildare 0-12: To lose Kieran McGeeney from the frontline of GAA life would be a shame but after six seasons in Kildare without ever putting a top tier county to the sword a seventh year will take some serious consideration.

Tyrone deserved to move on to Croke Park next weekend to face Meath. They were the better team in Newbridge, as all Kildare’s old failings reared their head once again.

Another cold, hard fact is they lack the natural footballers to be dining at the championship’s top table.

That could never be said of Mickey Harte’s Tyrone. See Mark Donnelly and Stephen O’Neill’s excellence as primary examples.

Kildare were atrocious in possession during the opening 35 minutes. It was miserable viewing for the sea of white in the 7,448 crowd.

McGeeney remained as calm as possible on the sideline, same can’t be said of assistant coach Jason Ryan in the stand, as Kildare racked up nine wides while numerous shots fell short.

It took them until first half injury time to realise the only way of staying with Tyrone was to ensure Johnny Doyle was the

man taking aim at the posts. But even Doyle was sloppy in possession. They all were.

McGeeney reacted by hauling off Daniel Flynn and Seán Hurley, but it could have been five or six other players. Still, no sign of their adopted marksman Seánie Johnson. Not yet.

As Kildare blew chance after chance, Tyrone efficiently went about clocking up 1-6 to 0-4 in response.

The goal was a perfect counter punch, so typical of Mickey Harte teams. Niall Kelly blazed over a real goal chance down the other end but it took just seconds for O’Neill to find Ryan McKenna, who put Matthew Donnelly clear on Shane Connolly’s goal. The finish was to the top right corner.

Seán Cavanagh was excellent, while O’Neill had Peter Kelly in all sorts of bother. Kelly got his first yellow card on 28 minutes but five minutes later O’Neill could consider himself fortunate not to be sent off for retaliation.

It was hardly a killer blow he inflicted to Kelly’s stomach, but the fullback crumpled to the ground. A melee ensued with referee Joe McQuillan calmly consulting his umpires for some context before brandishing a yellow to the former footballer of the year.

The locals were incensed but considering the grabbing and ribbing of Kelly, it seemed the sensible decision.

The Tomás O’Connor lighthouse project wasn’t working either as Conor Clarke was doing a decent marking job on the big full forward with a little help from the human shield Joe McMahon and later Conor Gormley.

Whatever McGeeney, Ryan or the players said to each other at half-time clearly worked. Kildare returned with a controlled ferocity not seen from them for some time.

Doyle landed a quick free, O’Neill finally profited from O’Connor’s distribution and then Niall Kelly also found the target. When Doyle made it a one-point game on 42 minutes the place got very noisy.

Now, imagine how feral and crazy the town of Newbridge became when Paul Cribbin levelled it up a minute later. Everything had changed.

Even O’Neill shot a wide, but that usual Kildare inability to play the simple, quick pass crept back into their game. It led to Mark Donnelly soloing through their defence – a criminal offence that he was allowed get so far unchecked – until Emmet Bolton cleaned him out. Penalty. Up stepped O’Neill.

Surely that would be that.

Connolly parried the shot. Unreal.

We had ourselves a heavyweight slug-fest. Hammer blows started raining in from either side. It was also a spectacle of what Gaelic football has become. Running machines. Athletes at work.

In came Seánie Johnson. News had just filtered through that Cavan had beaten Derry and would probably face London for a place in the All-Ireland quarter-final. Meath were waiting whoever survived this madness.

It came down to who would blink first. History told us it would be Kildare.

Kelly’s second yellow card, for a foul on the classy Matthew Donnelly, allowed Tyrone to suck the life out of the last few minutes.

They had eased into a three-point lead thanks to Mark Donnelly, Cavanagh and Penrose.

Then Peter Harte appeared, gliding through the home defence, to sidefoot a pretty point.

O’Connor was pulled off and so was O’Neill but for the opposite reason. Tyrone’s old and new guard move on.

At the end some Kildare supporters, including an elderly woman, and despite the presence of three Gardaí, jostled referee McQuillan as he left the field.

Tyrone: P McConnell; A McCrory, C Clarke, C McCarron; R McKenna, P Harte, C Gormley; C Cavanagh, S Cavanagh; Matthew Donnelly, Joe McMahon, Mark Donnelly; D McCurry, S O’Neill, M Penrose. Substitutions: A Cassidy for C Cavanagh (42 mins), D Carlin for R McKenna (51 mins), K Coney for D McCurry (56 mins), C McAliskey for S O’Neill (68 mins), Justin McMahon for C McCarron (69 mins)

Kildare: S Connolly; D Hyland, P Kelly, H McGrillen; E Bolton, M O’Flaherty, Daniel Flynn; Daryl Flynn, P O’Neill; E O’Flaherty, P Brophy, E Callaghan; N Kelly, T O’Connor, J Doyle. Substitutions: P Cribbin for Daniel Flynn (19 mins), S Hurley for E Callaghan (35 mins), S Johnson for P O’Neill (55 mins), A Smith for N Kelly (57 mins), E Doyle for T O’Connor (64 mins)

Referee: J McQuillan (Cavan).