Feargal Logan: ‘It is a minor miracle that those guys were fit to do what they did’

Brian Dooher emphasises importance of not conceding a goal in tight semi-final win over Kerry

Kerry manager Peter Keane during the Kerry v Tyrone semi-final at Croke Park. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Kerry manager Peter Keane during the Kerry v Tyrone semi-final at Croke Park. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

With Covid dominating so much of the conversation in the run-up to Saturday’s All-Ireland semi-final and even the aftermath it was easy to lose track of what a seismic shock the outcome was.

Tyrone were underdogs simply because Kerry had ticked the boxes as champions in waiting, having been just about kept at bay by five-in-a-row Dublin two years ago and having blazed a trail this year in the league and provincial championship.

One of the more daunting comparisons was Kerry’s 21 goals to date, compared to Tyrone’s four – just one of which came in championship - and the fact, its relevance disowned by everyone, that six of these goals had come against Tyrone last June in Fitzgerald Stadium.

Just 11 weeks later the tables turned so completely that the Ulster champions outscored their opponents by three goals to nil. That is a major hill to climb for any team, and so it proved for Kerry, whose point-taking nearly met the target but ultimately fell one short after extra time.

At the post-match media conference Tyrone joint-manager Feargal Logan acknowledged the impact of the goals.

“I felt it ebbed and flowed. They started well. We got a foothold in the game. Clearly the goals were good for us, very good for us. That’s the bottom line. You are playing a serious team, with serious free-takers, and we had shipped our fair share down in Killarney.”

Endurance

The postponement of the match had been agreed to allow Tyrone to prepare more satisfactorily. Nonetheless, being able to present on the pitch is one thing; having to last 90 minutes, including coping with 20 minutes of the second half with a player in the sin bin, is another. Their endurance was extraordinary.

“Listen, I worried through the game,” said Logan. “I thought we could run out of gas in the second half, I worried about extra-time, I worried the whole week, worried the whole month. And listen, it is a minor miracle that those guys were fit to do what they did.

“You know football matches turn out differently than you anticipate, and the goals kept us tipping. They were big scores.”

For his Kerry counterpart, Peter Keane, the outcome was a disaster. Strongly tipped for the All-Ireland all year even before the exit of six-time champions Dublin, the Munster champions came spectacularly unstuck to keep going the stark sequence of having won just once in Croke Park in what is now the past 11 matches going back to their league title win in 2017.

It means that they have now failed to beat Mayo (three times), Dublin (four times), Galway and Donegal, with just one win in that time, in 2019, ironically against Tyrone.

On Saturday there were problems at either end for Kerry. They couldn’t manufacture a goal despite having an open net in the first half only for Paul Geaney to pass to Stephen O’Brien, who was already standing in the square.

They conceded three at the other end because of the number of turnovers – 31 in total.

“I think the turnovers is obviously a big factor. I think we’d something, a high number anyway by the end of the 100-odd minutes. That’s something that’ll have to be analysed.

“Going back, two of the goals came off turnovers, so suddenly you are going this way, and you get caught going the other way. The goals – I thought the boys were very good, I was very proud of them and I am very proud of them and after 100 minutes of football they died on their back, they gave it everything.

Extra time

“At the start of extra time we conceded 1-2 and obviously that was an issue and they recovered very well. They fought back and fought back, and even at the death had an opportunity to level it.”

Given the disappointing conclusion to all of their championships in the past three years the question about Keane’s future duly arrives.

“Again a question 20 minutes after a loss here. It isn’t anywhere in the head at the moment.”

Logan’s managerial colleague Brian Dooher emphasised the importance of not conceding a goal.

“The boys worked hard. They talk about defensive systems, the tackling out the field I suppose is the first line. We had some super last-ditch defending from our full-back line then, who were phenomenal out there.

“We were just glad to keep a clean sheet as it gives you a chance. If you are conceding big scores to Kerry you will have problems and we knew that we had enough to work on.”

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