Tyrone take advantage of sloppy Kildare
Both sides make Division One semi-finals
The green shoots of Kildare's under-21s was the main reason for Kieran McGeeney not being overly perturbed by a long standing problem in Lilywhite land rearing its head again yesterday.
The lack of scoring forwards has stymied Kildare's quest to capture some silverware on McGeeney's watch (Johnny Doyle is resting a sore shoulder, by the way).
After this comprehensive home defeat the manager was understandably irked by a Tyrone clad supporter, who slipped unnoticed into the players enclosure, making a snide comment about the need to sign a few more Cavan forwards.
The man wasn't long regretting his words.
Still, even Seánie Johnston's natural sight for the posts was dimmed here. In fact, it took the introduction of Paul Cribbin and Sean Hurley, key figures in the under-21s probable march to a Leinster title and beyond, playing their third match in seven days, to lend some respectability to the scoreboard.
In reality, Tyrone had wiped the floor with Kildare before any hint of a second half revival was ridiculed by inaccuracy.
At least there is a silver lining; the Armagh man was content to have guided Kildare into the Division One semi-finals with a game to spare.
"There are a few more positives than negatives," said McGeeney, as we briefly lingered for a few words in arctic conditions.
"I think we had 12 wides and seven shots dropped short in the second half but it was encouraging from some points of view, apart from the shooting aspect of it. Sean and Paul made a big difference when they came on."
As usual, he was being too hard on himself. Kildare only belted 10 shots off target with Cribbin kicking three decent scores and Hurley sending over a whooper of a point at the death.
"They were brilliant but it probably shows the way the modern game has gone. You need pace and you need a lot of it. Paul scored three points and he missed three that he should have got."
McGeeney was referring to a spurned a goal chance on 62 minutes that would've reduced arrears to five points. But Cribbin's impact begged the question: will there be an overhaul in established personnel come championship?
"No point saying anybody is good enough now. Come the summer it's a different ball game with a lot more intensity. I think Dublin showed last night the type of work rate you need at inter-county level, especially in Croke Park. If we can get them up to that..."
There were other problems. Whenever a Kildare player advanced over halfway he was forced to hesitate. A man the size of Tomás O'Connor will always be missed and with only Johnston inside, constantly shadowed by Cathal McCarron or Aidan McCrory, the direct option was nullified.
So Kildare went to the wings. Meat and drink for swarming Tyrone men. Johnston did draw one foul in the first half, which he pointed, but he may as well have been playing in a swamp.
Alan Smith and the otherwise anonymous Ronan Sweeney clipped two more scores but that was it.
"There was a breeze there but we easily could've taken more shots," McGeeney continued. "Against a team like Tyrone, at the very least, you got to shoot a lot because you don't want them counter attacking on you."
Mickey Harte's re-built panel is simmering nicely. Sean Cavanagh is nearing peak form after missing last year with a shoulder injury but it was the excellence of Peter Harte and Stephen O'Neill that stood out.
Before that pair hit their stride, Mark Donnelly gave Tyrone a cushion, exploiting the dithering Emmet Bolton to finish to the net on the second attempt after a good initial block by Mark Donnellan.
Niall Morgan was doing an impressive Stephen Cluxton impression, marching forward to plant the long range frees, while Ryan McKenna pointed off O'Neill's ability to dash out in front of Ollie Lyons.
It was 1-8 to 0-3 at the turn, thanks to a couple of cracking O'Neill strikes sandwiched between a beaut by Harte that left some 4,000-odd loyalists grumbling during the freezing 15 minute interlude.
O'Connor arrived for the second half but he barely tested Joe McMahon on the square's edge.
Any sign of a revival was quelled when Tyrone's impressive new goalkeeper sauntered forward to register a third pointed free on 48 minutes.
Kildare are up to Newry next while Tyrone can relegate Kerry in Omagh.
"We will not even be thinking about what it does to Kerry, we will only be thinking about what it does to us," said Harte.
Kildare: M Donnellan; H McGrillen, O Lyons, P Kelly; E Doyle, M Foley, E Bolton; H Lynch (S Hurley 26), P O'Neill; E O'Flaherty, E Callaghan (0-1), M O'Flaherty (0-1); S Johnston (0-2, two frees), A Smith (0-1), R Sweeney (0-1). Substitutions: S Hurley (0-1) for H Lynch (25 mins), T O'Connor for R Sweeney, P Cribbin (0-3) for M O'Flaherty (both half-time), R Kelly for S Johnston (58 mins).
Tyrone: N Morgan (0-3, three frees); C McCarron, C Clarke, A McCrory; R McKenna (0-1), Joe McMahon, R McNamee; C Cavanagh, S Cavanagh; P McNeice (0-1), P Harte (0-2, one free), Matthew Donnelly; C McAliskey (0-2, one free), Stephen O'Neill (0-3, one free), Mark Donnelly (1-0). Substitutions: P Kane for M Donnelly, D McBride for C Clarke (both half-time), M Penrose for M Donnelly (50 mins), A Cassidy (0-1) for C Cavanagh (61 mins), D McCrory for S O'Neill (68 mins).
Referee: M Duffy (Sligo).