Kerry 3-15 Tyrone 0-09
In the not too distant past, tanking Tyrone in Killarney has amounted to a hill of beans but Kerry’s latest effort screamed substance.
A 10-point qualifier win two years ago, they went five points better yesterday with a towering performance after the interval that was hardly in keeping with recent outings.
A defeat away to Kildare next week and the "R" word will be mentioned in the same breath as the county. But for now, Kerry are up and running, having done their second-half credibility a world of good.
The evidence had been stacking up against Kerry. There had been the two games against Dublin and Mayo when they put together an aggregate of 1-5 across the two second halves.
There was, of course, last September’s All-Ireland semi-final when only 0-6 of their 3-11 total came following the break and don’t forget last year’s corresponding Division 1 tie with Tyrone in Omagh, when they had scored 1-12 of their 1-16 total in the first half.
Each time, Eamonn Fitzmaurice provided a reasonable explanation to counter the theory but the perception was beginning to stick; Kerry were quickly growing a reputation as the best first-half team in the country.
One victory won’t yet kill off that observation but it was an emphatic second period of football by Kerry. However, Tyrone turning into submissives did aid their cause, Fitzmaurice qualifying one or two of James O’Donoghue’s goals as "soft".
However, he acknowledged it was a team performance in keeping with his expectations of the players.
"At times, the management would have been frustrated because you know what the lads are capable of. I think that’s more of a true reflection of where a lot of them are at."
Mickey Harte told his players afterwards they had let down their supporters among the 4,950 crowd. "They deserved better," he said.
Harte himself is open to questioning too for persisting with a leaking Barry Tierney on James O’Donoghue. Despite scoring two goals, Tierney was still floundering against the Kerryman as he shot low past Niall Morgan to complete his hat-trick.
Tyrone had, by that stage, chalked the game down as beyond rescue, having gone nine behind on the hour mark, which was 23 minutes after their last score of the game, via substitute Ciaran McGinley.
Seán Cavanagh, quiet by his standards in the first half, slipped into anonymity when shifted from midfield to full-forward after the break.
And yet there had been no indication it was all going to turn out so disappointing for Tyrone. Tied at eight points apiece at half-time, the visitors had held a one-point lead on three occasions.
Morgan saved them a couple of times with early vital blocks on O’Donoghue and they did trail by three points at one stage, with Bryan Sheehan in superb free-taking form.
Brian Kelly also had to be sharp to prevent Paddy McNiece a goal in the 24th minute when a Ronan O’Neill shot came down from the top of the post into the Tyrone forward’s possession.
McGinley’s score proved to be a false dawn for Tyrone as it was Kerry who mastered midfield and kicked on from the 44th minute when a Sheehan free levelled the affair.
Their intent was characterised by a thumping, legal shoulder by Peter Crowley on Colm Cavanagh in the 50th minute. That came at a time when Kerry fashioned a five-point lead, O’Donoghue’s first goal coming between points from Anthony Maher and Paul Geaney. Sheehan broke the ball down to the corner forward and he left Tierney in his wake. Harte saw that as a turning point. "We kept a goal out in the first half, which kept the game alive for us, and we didn’t do that at the start of the second half. It was just the fillip Kerry needed because we could have answered if they tagged on a point or two."
The goal had come after Kerry had removed Donnchadh Walsh and Barry John Keane from the fray and Geaney and Kieran O’Leary impressed in their stead.
Darran O’Sullivan was also afforded his first outing of the season as Fitzmaurice was able to freshen up his attack, and the change of personnel hardly afforded Tyrone any relief.
David Moran delivered a telling inside pass to O’Donoghue, described as "a wonderful player" by Harte, in the 62nd minute to drive a deflected shot to the net.
Geaney took the mantle of provider for O’Donoghue’s third when the Legion man’s low strike in the final minute of normal time was too good for Morgan.
"It just went from bad to worse," said Harte, "and it’s a performance that will have to be forgotten as best we can but it won’t be because it will always be there."
For Kerry, they’ll be hoping yesterday marks a permanent departure from their former selves.
Scorers for Kerry: B Sheehan (0-8, 7 frees); J O’Donoghue (3-3, 0-2 frees); BJ Keane, A Maher, P Geaney, K O’Leary (0-1 each).
Scorers for Tyrone: N Morgan (frees), P Harte, R O’Neill (frees), D McCurry (0-2 each); C McGinley (0-1 each).
Subs for Kerry: K O’Leary for D Walsh, P Geaney for BJ Keane (both 46); Darran O’Sullivan for D Casey (51); A O’Mahony for P Crowley (60, inj); J Buckley for B Sheehan (65).
Subs for Tyrone: C McGinley for R McNabb, Mark Donnelly for P McNiece (both h-t); N McKenna for S McGuigan (56); C Grugan for E McKenna (62); A McCrory for PJ Quinn (65).
Referee: R Hickey (Clare)
KERRY: B Kelly; P Murphy, M Griffin, S Enright; P Crowley, F Fitzgerald, M Ó Sé; A Maher, D Moran; D Casey, B Sheehan, D Walsh; S O’Brien, BJ Keane, J O’Donoghue.
TYRONE: N Morgan; B Tierney, PJ Quinn, R McNamee; P Harte, R McNabb, C Clarke; C Cavanagh, S Cavanagh; E McKenna, S McGuigan, P McNiece; D McCurry, Mattie Donnelly, R O’Neill.