David Clifford in immaculate shooting form as Kerry use all-in shemozzle to spark victory over Tyrone

Jack O’Connor’s side respond to last week’s hammering by Dublin with a dominant display in Killarney

National Football League Division One: Kerry 0-18 Tyrone 1-11

Nothing like bringing Tyrone to Killarney to focus Kerry minds. After having their hides tanned for them in Croke Park last weekend, this was the get-right game Jack O’Connor’s side needed. Kerry put in about as complete a display as they could have hoped for in early March, running up 18 points and only kicking four wides all afternoon.

For all their aesthetic splendour though, they owed at least some of this one to a more earthy catalyst. These lunchtime games can be sleepy enough affairs and neither Kerry nor Tyrone attacked this one initially like anybody’s life depended on it. Rarely has a match been more in need of a dog running on the pitch to get the people going. Or a streaker maybe. Something. Anything.

What we got instead was a good old-fashioned one-in-all-in midway through the opening half. Conn Kilpatrick pulled down a kick-out and when David Clifford came in to knock him on his arse, it sparked a row that lasted a good two or three minutes. Oddly, Clifford escaped yellow when David Coldrick came to settle all bets at the end – his brother Paudie and Dara Moynihan were carded for Kerry, Peter Harte went into the book for Tyrone.


Now, you can say what you like about the eyesore brought about by such a stramash – we don’t condone, won’t someone think of the kids, etc, etc. But let nobody deny that this game benefited from everyone suddenly sharpening their edges. It woke Kerry up most of all.

“It certainly seemed to put a bit of life into our fellas,” said O’Connor afterwards. “Maybe we were a bit nervous. You have to remember there’s big pressure on these players to perform, particularly after the display the last night, so maybe they threw off the shackles a bit after that.

“Maybe we were a bit nervous early on. A bit tentative – that’s the word I would use to describe it. Maybe after that I thought we played with a bit of fury, a bit of drive, and played off the cuff a bit. We got the ball forward a bit quicker. I just thought we were a bit cautious early on.”

The row happened in the 13th minute of the first half with Kerry trailing by 0-2 to 0-3. Fast forward to the 13th minute of the second period and they were ahead by 0-14 to 0-7. The difference between the sides was mainly down to their respective stock of shooting boots. Kerry brought theirs, Tyrone’s had stayed in the dressingroom. Across the afternoon, Kerry scored 0-18 from 25 shots; Tyrone scored 1-11 from 26.

Those numbers tell you that even though Kerry looked slick and ruthless in attack, Tyrone were pretty much matching them chance for chance. But Brian Dooher’s side were so, so wasteful. Three different players missed frees in the first half alone. By the end, nine different Tyrone players had either kicked a wide, hit the post or dropped a shot into Shane Ryan’s hands.

At the other end, relentless Kerry accuracy put clear water between the sides. Maybe most eye-catching of all was the fact that much of it came from stout work in their own defence. Time and again, they bottled Tyrone up between their 45 and 20-metre line before breaking at pace to create a chance. Gavin White was instrumental here, jail-breaking through the middle of the pitch to set up scores for both Clifford brothers and Seán O’Shea.

Kerry were 0-11 to 0-6 ahead at the break and soon the gap was out to seven after a couple of David Clifford frees to start the second half. Daragh Canavan and Ben Cullen hit back for Tyrone but Kerry were always able to keep the visitors at arm’s length. When Paudie Clifford and Dara Moynihan chipped in with slick scores of their own, it was 0-17 to 0-9 on the hour mark.

Eight points felt about right at that stage. Tyrone rallied briefly, getting in for the afternoon’s only goal through Ciarán Daly and following it with a towering score from Ruairí Canavan. That sent a small frisson through the crowd when everyone realised that somehow the gap was down to just four now. But a magnificent free from out on the left by David Clifford confirmed a badly-needed result for Kerry.

“It was a tough enough week,” O’Connor said. “But I have to say that the players and everybody in the back-room team responded and stuck together. That’s all you can do in a week like that.

“It was a tough week, no doubt about it. A lot of soul-searching, a lot of conversations. You’re just hoping that the work you do then, two decent training sessions, is then transmitted on to the game.

“I tell you, if we had two or three weeks to be thinking about the display in Croke Park, I’d say we’d have had to move out of the house. It was great to have a game so quick.”

Kerry: Graham O’Sullivan, Jason Foley, Paul Murphy; Sean O’Brien (0-1), Tadhg Morley, Gavin White; Diarmuid O’Sullivan, Joe O’Connor; Adrian Spillane (0-1), Paudie Clifford (0-3), Conor Geaney; David Clifford (0-8, six frees), Sean O’Shea (0-4, one free), Dara Moynihan (0-1). Subs: Tony Brosnan for Geaney, half-time; Ronan Buckley for Spillane, 52 mins; Stefan Okunbar for O’Brien, 61 mins; Stephen O’Brien for Moynihan, 63 mins; Darragh Roche for P Clifford, 67 mins; Dylan Casey for Foley (blood), 70 mins

Tyrone: Niall Morgan (0-1, 45); Conall Devlin, Padraig Hampsey, Cormac Quinn; Ben Cullen (0-1), Peter Harte, Niall Devlin; Brian Kennedy, Conn Kilpatrick (0-1); Ciarán Daly (1-1), David Mulgrew, Joe Oguz; Darren McCurry (0-2, one free), Darragh Canavan (0-3), Seanie O’Donnell (0-1). Subs: Ruairí Canavan (0-1) for Harte, 22 mins; Kieran McGeary for Mulgrew, 39 mins; Aodhan Donaghy for Kilpatrick, 43 mins; Cathal McShane for D Canavan, 62 mins; Lorcan McGarrity for McCurry, 67 mins

Referee: David Coldrick (Meath).

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin is a sports writer with The Irish Times