Kerry survive, Tyrone drop, football wins the day
Ulster side’s stirring display not enough as Kingdom run out winners in Omagh
Kerry’s Kieran Donaghy rises for the catch ahead of Tyrone’s Justin McMahon during the Alianz Footbal League Diviison One match at Healy park in Omagh. Photograph: Andrew Paton/Inpho/Presseye
Tyrone 0-17 Kerry 1-14
And on the third day, it rose again. Hold the death notice, cancel the flowers, call off the undertakers. The game of football lives, as we always knew it would.
All that died in Healy Park was Tyrone’s Division One status but even that won’t weigh all that heavily on them after a stirring display against Kerry. The sides ended level and everyone went home with something to bring into the summer.
Tyrone aren’t heading for Division Two because of performances like this. They were terrific in spells here and had they taken any one of three goal chances in the second half, they might have slipped the noose. But as it was, Kerry did what they needed and stayed just far enough out of reach.
In some ways, this was a thoroughly similar game to Dublin v Derry eight days ago – albeit with two not insignificant differences. First off, the weather was better. More to the point, the shooting was a couple of ranks above what we saw in Croke Park.
For Derry, see Tyrone – the full 14-men-back enchilada.
For Dublin, see Kerry – not quite mimicking their northern opposition but making no apologies for adequately populating their defensive shield when Tyrone had the ball.
What really stood out from the Death Of Football game, when all the fire and fury passed, was the desperate standard of shooting. This was about as far removed from that widefest as you could wish to see. The packed defences meant scores had to come from distance if they came at all and neither side were backward having a go.
Tyrone led 0-8 to 0-7 at the break after a first half that was sprinkled with eye-catching points from all distances and angles. Johnny Buckley, Paul Murphy and David Moran landed huge kicks for Kerry; Mattie Donnelly, Darren McCurry and the excellent Ronan McNabb responded in kind for Tyrone. Add in the ballast of frees from Seán Cavanagh on one side and Bryan Sheehan on the other and the scoreboard kept rolling.
Though Tyrone’s need was greater in the second half – a two-point victory being the very least they could emerge with to stay up – it was Kerry who found their feet the better. Kieran Donaghy had a phenomenal 35 minutes, setting up a welter of scores for Paul Geaney and Darran O’Sullivan and chiming in with one of his own. Kerry were also able to give Colm Cooper his first game since the 2013 All-Ireland semi-final and he set Donaghy up for their last score of the game.
Geaney it was who got Kerry’s goal, finishing well after Donaghy had put O’Sullivan through, only for the substitute’s shot to be blocked Geaney’s way. It looked certain to be the difference too, since Tyrone kept fluffing their lines at the other end. Cavanagh butchered a terrific chance when straight through on goal, Joe McMahon blazed over, and Donnelly caught the outside of Brendan Kealy’s goal.
All of which meant that Kerry went into injury-time 1-14 to 0-16 ahead with Tyrone needing a goal to stay up. For reasons best known to himself, the otherwise excellent McCurry chose to flick a point with 30 seconds to go.
Draw game, Tyrone through the trapdoor, Kerry safe. Football alive for another day at least.
TYRONE: Johnny Curran; Aidan McCrory, Ronan McNamee, Cathal McCarron; Ronan McNabb (0-1), Justin McMahon, Peter Harte (0-1); Colm Cavanagh, Pádraig McNulty; Tiernan McCann, Mattie Donnelly (0-1), Ryan McKenna; Darren McCurry (0-7, three frees), Seán Cavanagh (0-6, all frees), Peter Hughes.
Subs: Joe McMahon (0-1) for McNulty (half-time); Conor McAliskey for Peter Hughes (half-time); PJ Lavery for McCann (52 mins); Ronan O’Neill for Justin McMahon (59 mins); Conall McCann for McKenna (66 mins).
KERRY: Brendan Kealy; Paul Murphy (0-2), Mark Griffin, Shane Enright; Jonathan Lyne, Peter Crowley, Killian Young; Anthony Maher (0-1), David Moran (0-1); Alan Fitzgerald, Bryan Sheehan (0-4, three frees), Johnny Buckley (0-2); Stephen O’Brien, Kieran Donaghy (0-1), Barry John Keane.
Subs: Paul Geaney (1-2) for Keane (18 mins); Darran O’Sullivan (0-1) for Fitzgerald (half-time); Tommy Walsh for O’Brien (black card, 41 mins); Marc Ó Sé for Crowley (54 mins); Colm Cooper for Sheehan (64 mins); Fionn Fitzgerald for Young (65 mins).
Referee: Joe McQuillan (Cavan).