Walsh provides the charge for Kerry to get motoring

Walsh provides the charge for Kerry to get motoring
Tommy Walsh. Picture: Sportsfile

Kerry 1-18 - 0-18 Tyrone

And so what stands between Dublin and immortality is the county that itself was denied that very place in history on another All-Ireland final day.

Appropriate, maybe.

Appropriate too that Kerry’s qualification this weekend for September 1 followed a similar path — trailing at half-time after an iffy first period only to metamorphosise in the second.

Down four points returning to the Hogan Stand tunnel (0-9 to 0-5) having cobbled together just two points from play, they were staring at a seventh consecutive game in Croke Park without a win.

Unlike Jim Gavin, Peter Keane recognised there was something more amiss than his men simply playing within themselves and he made a couple of half-time personnel changes, the most significant being Jack Sherwood for Adrian Spillane at midfield. 

Sherwood was a sensation in clearing himself away from Tyrone players to supply the forward line.

But it wasn’t until Tommy Walsh was introduced in the 51st minute that Kerry really began to motor. His replacing of Jason Foley prompted several positional switches including Gavin Crowley taking Foley’s full-back place and Brian Ó Beaglaoich moving from the Tyrone 45-metre line to his own.

It was a lot of change but oh how it worked. In one of the greatest examples of in-game management by Kerry, Walsh managed to make even more of an impact than Sherwood. 

Tyrone led by two points when Walsh supplied David Moran for a score in the 54th minute and then assisted David Clifford for another four minutes later. Consider the two kick-outs he also won and it truly was a case of the 31-year-old rolling back the years.

David Clifford. Picture: Sportsfile
David Clifford. Picture: Sportsfile

“I thought he did well, would you agree?” said Keane afterwards. “ I think he won every ball that went in and offloaded it. He was a bit unlucky with the shot he took. Maybe, he just needed to steady himself a little bit more. He did very well in Navan too when he came in.”

By that stage, it was Tyrone who were relying on being economical but just as a goal chance looked on, Kieran McGeary’s pass went astray.

Involved in that turnover, Stephen O’Brien was at the end of what followed when Paul Geaney was able to draw three Tyrone defenders in to set up O’Brien for that 56th-minute goal. And for the first time Kerry were up in the game.

O’Brien, playing the football of his life at the moment, sent over a point a minute later and Kerry were four clear. 

A second Niall Morgan 45 on the hour mark was quickly followed by Tyrone’s clearest goal chance but Peter Harte’s attempted palmed effort, having been put in by Cathal McShane was tame, although Gavin White had applied pressure.

Two further Kerry points followed, O’Shea kicking a beautiful free after O’Brien drew a foul and then Clifford split the posts with little time to do so. 

After two rare poor attempts early in the half, Cathal McShane kicked his sixth point and when Richard Donnelly followed it up in the first minute of additional time, there was Tyrone hope once more.

Geaney, though, put paid to that with his third point of the game, the pick of them. Darren McCurry did follow it but again Kerry struck back via the fantastic O’Brien.

A McShane free once more cut the margin to three but Clifford delivered with Kerry’s insurance score.

A Peter Harte free, extending the punishment for O’Brien’s deliberate pull-down of Connor McAlliskey, rounded off the scoring. Kerry will need O’Brien freed up for the final and everything else they have going for them and then some more if they are to defy Dublin.

Depending on how you judge it, yesterday’s small 33,848 crowd — according to some statisticians the poorest semi-final crowd in 23 years — was affected by the air of inevitability about Dublin doing the five-in-a-row. 

Other factors would have included the price rise to €50 for a stand ticket this year and the distances having to be travelled a week after the final round of the Super 8s.

Picture: Sportsfile
Picture: Sportsfile

The flatness of the crowd was matched by the fare in the first half where Kerry, for all the players they were committing forward, were too deliberate. It played nicely into Tyrone’s hands and Paul Murphy looked troubled trying to mind the house behind him where McShane and Mattie Donnelly were again working well in tandem.

With Frank Burns delivering good ball their way and McShane being a nuisance both with and without the ball, Tyrone were 0-3 to 0-1 up by the seventh minute. 

Kerry brought it back level on two occasions in the next eight minutes but McShane was continuing to prosper, assisting Niall Sludden to put Tyrone back in front in the 16th minute. He added his second of the game in the 20th minute, his third in the 24th, and was offloading to Donnelly for his second score of the game in the 30th.

Mickey Harte was asked if McShane’s contribution this year deserved to end at this juncture but spoke instead of his team in general. 

“People talk about that you don’t always get what your deserve in life, and perhaps the outcome and result today isn’t what a lot of our players deserve, if you want to put that word in its finer context.

But that’s life, life’s journey and sometimes things go very well for you and sometimes they don’t, and perhaps when it doesn’t go well is the days when you learn more about yourself as a person, never mind as a sportsperson.

It didn’t seem Harte would be the losing manager at the halfway stage.

Blocked far too many times in that first half and sending six shots wide, Kerry were out of sorts and when Adrian Spillane messed up a promising attack towards the end of the half it summed up Kerry’s display to that point succinctly.

With Sherwood and White entering the fray, the team that returned early to the field for the second half obviously wasn’t the same in complexion but neither in attitude. Frees won by Geaney, O’Shea, and O’Brien gave them the platform to turn this game around, a seven-point flip by the end.

Dublin won’t be quaking but a similarly unbeaten Kerry won’t care.

They have their shot at them.

Scorers for Kerry:

S. O’Shea (0-6, 5 frees, 1 45); D. Clifford (0-5, 1 free); S. O’Brien (1-2); P. Geaney (0-3); J. Sherwood, D. Moran (0-1 each).

Scorers for Tyrone:

C. McShane (0-7, 3 frees); M. Donnelly, M. Sludden, N. Morgan (45s) (0-2 each); M. McKernan, R. Donnelly, D. McCurry, C. McAliskey, P. Harte (free) (0-1 each).

KERRY:

S. Ryan; J. Foley, T. Morley; P. Murphy; S. Enright, T. O’Sullivan, G. Crowley; D. Moran, A. Spillane; B. Ó. Beaglaoich, S. O’Shea, S. O’Brien; P. Geaney, D. Clifford, K. Spillane.

Subs for Kerry:

J. Sherwood for A. Spillane, G. White for S. Enright (h-t); T. Walsh for J. Foley (51); D. Moynihan for K. Spillane (57); J. Lyne for G. Crowley (70+1); J. Barry for T. O’Sullivan (70+5); S. O’Brien (black, 70+7).

TYRONE:

N. Morgan; R. Brennan, R. McNamee, P. Hampsey; C. Cavanagh; K. McGeary, C. Meyler, M. McKernan; R. Donnelly, M. Cassidy; F. Burns, P. Harte, N. Sludden; M. Donnelly (c), C. McShane.

Subs for Tyrone:

C. McAliskey for N. Sludden (53); T. McCann for K. McGeary (58); D. McCurry for M. Cassidy (inj 65); B. Kennedy for C. Cavanagh (69).

Referee:

M. Deegan (Laois).

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