Peter Keane can’t have been sure what would transpire from his first collision with senior inter-county football but his desire for guts and graft was answered emphatically in Killarney.
That his young tyros delivered two valuable Division 1 League points was the icing on the cake for the Kingdom today.
Ultimately the boot of Sean O’Shea delivered the scores to get Kerry over the line, but this was an afternoon for boot and bullock and that Kerry outlasted Tyrone in that regard will please not only the management, but the expectant eyes in a crowd of 12,921 at Fitzgerald Stadium.
The likes of Dara Moynihan, Diarmuid O’Connor, Tom O’Sullivan and Adrian Spillane started strong and never wilted over the 70 minutes. No wonder Kerry’s new head of Athletic Development Jason McGahan had a glint in his eye afterwards.
Sean O’Shea converted an outrageous sideline kick – with a hint of Maurice Fitzgerald in Thurles – in the final few minutes as the Kingdom eventually took the game beyond a one-score margin. That they had failed to do so beforehand kept the home crowd on edge, though Tyrone’s offensive threat never rose above sporadic.
Mickey Harte’s side only registered one first-half point, and didn’t score from play until the 50th minute, when Peter Harte took advantage of a turnover. The visitors, with Tiernan McCann excellent, had enough about them to stay in touch, but they never created the goal chance they really needed to put Kerry on the back foot.
There might have been a few groans from the crowd when James O’Donoghue’s absence was confirmed before the start but they were rapidly replaced by enthusiasm for the efforts of his replacement, Dara Moynihan. The Spa dynamo – one of a crop of All-Ireland minor winners starting to filter through – was peerless in terms of energy and forward momentum in the first period, crowning it with two points before the break to give the hosts a 0-5 to 0-1 interval advantage. Both Moynihan and Diarmuid O’Connor played the full game.
Moynihan’s 33rd and 35th minute points were the first two scores from play in a first period where manic intensity was the order of the day from both sides. Kerry were every bit as willing to drop 13 men behind the ball when required, but their ability to turn the ball over in those situations was sharper than Tyrone’s. Those hard hits and quick hands delivered a series of breakaway attacks, not all of which were converted. What could have proved the costliest miss was from Stephen O’Brien after 18 minutes. Tom O’Sullivan turned possession back to his team and O’Brien had clear road ahead but lacked the poise one would associate with his finishing, and scuffed the effort wide.
Even in the second period, Tom O’Sullivan – who was outstanding otherwise – was wide with two presentable efforts, but Kerry’s resistance never waned, mentally or physically. Tyrone reduced the gap to two points (0-9 to 0-7) with a Mattie Donnelly point in the 65th minute, but O’Shea’s monster score from under the O’Sullivan Stand doused their momentum.
“You have to give credit to Kerry, they put huge pressure on us in that game, and they capitalised on our mistakes. Great credit must go to David Gough for the way he handled that game,” reflected Tyrone boss Mickey Harte.
“Kerry were well structured in the first half and were very intense in the tackle. This was a really intense game generally, the crowd really enjoyed the turnovers too. We will often play a lot worse and get more out of the game.”
Scorers for Kerry: S. O’Shea (0-6, 4 frees, one sideline), D Moynihan (0-2), T. O’Sullivan, J Barry, M Geaney (0-1 each).
Scorers for Tyrone: D McCurry (0-4, frees), M Donnelly, P Harte, N Morgan (free) (0-1 each)
KERRY: S Ryan; P. Crowley, J Sherwood, B O Beaglaoich; T Morley, P. Murphy, T. O’Sullivan; J Barry, A Spillane; J Lyne, S O’Shea, S. O’Brien; D. O’Connor, P. Geaney, D Moynihan.
Subs for Kerry: G. Crowley for Morley (45); G. O’Brien for Geaney (58); M Geaney for Lyne (62); K Spillane for S O’Brien (69).
TYRONE: N Morgan; L Rafferty, R McNamee, Hugh P McGeary; T McCann, R Brennan, M McKernan; B Kennedy, D McClure; M Donnelly, P. Harte, N Sludden; D McCurry, D. Mulgrew, C McShane.
Subs for Tyrone: K Coney for Mulgrew (half time); K McGeary for Rafferty (37); D Canavan for Sludden (52);
Referee: D. Gough (Meath)