Having seen both Kildare and Tyrone play Meath during the league, I felt Kildare would shade the game. They’d impressed me more, scoring 0-18 against Meath on a night when we played very well, at least compared to the night Tyrone notched 1-12 in the face of a poor Meath display.
Mind you, it was also the night I discovered just how good Kyle Coney can be, with his size, his movement and leadership qualities. He is a huge loss to Tyrone this season, a loss which just may put the All-Ireland out of their reach.
However, until the introduction of Pádraig Fogarty yesterday for Kildare after 47 minutes, it was Tyrone who looked the more likely winners. For Kildare, the league has seen returns from knee injuries for Peter Kelly, Mikey Conway and Dermot Early. A few players were given an opportunity to find their feet but further experimentation was abandoned after two opening defeats.
Until yesterday Kildare had not discovered any new talent but Fogarty won the game for them with his height, movement and confidence, lighting the spark for Kieran McGeeney’s side. In his 25 minute cameo, he scored three points from play and was fouled for two further converted frees, digging Kildare out of a third quarter slump that had seen them kick (wind-assisted) poorly into their full-forward line — sometimes aimless and too long, other times being intercepted by the Tyrone sweeper.
Fogarty’s lack of game time heretofore may indicate he over-performed yesterday but on the other hand, at 20 he may be that elusive quality forward who could bring Kildare over the line to ultimate success.
Eoghan O’Flaherty, being a half-forward with a defensive mindset, did a good job in negating Pater Harte’s runs from deep, resulting in Peter failing to score for the first time this campaign.
O’Flaherty and Mikey Conway were excellent with their free-kicks.
This is an area Kildare needed to improve on and have done so. Tomas O’Connor provided a good target up front, particularly in the first-half, when space was at a premium. Interesting move too by McGeeney putting Emmet Bolton at corner-back on Owen Mulligan. I feel this robbed Kildare of some of their attacking edge. But kudos for putting Hugh McGrillen on Sean Cavanagh. McGrillen is such an intelligent footballer and makes great runs forward, which gives Kildare great width. Sixteen points was an excellent return for Kildare against a defence whose biggest concession had been 0-13 in the league stages.
Tyrone were quite efficient in the first-half with Mulligan and Mark Donnelly looking very sharp. They have an ability to start second halves very well and yesterday was no different with an improved Sean Cavanagh, Cathal McCarron and Aidan Cassidy running strongly at Kildare, resulting in three quick points. Sean Cavanagh has nothing to prove to anyone at this stage but having seen him twice this year (and acknowledging his long-term absence with a shoulder injury), I feel he may have more to offer as an impact sub and making some trademark runs. As happens in the modern game, a new tactic can work very well for a while but opposition teams will work you out and Micky Harte will ponder where to make most use of Peter Harte’s undoubted ability. Having won 12 games out of 12 until yesterday, the defeat may do Tyrone no harm at all and having achieved promotion after round five of the league, they may have lost a touch of momentum thereafter. The return of Justin McMahon will strengthen the defence, as will Martin Penrose in attack.
With promotion to Division 1, a cup lifted in Croke Park, and a scalp in the shape of Tyrone, this could make this Kildare team a different proposition come the summer. Kildare have an ability to kick a string of brilliant points when they get into the groove. Fogarty’s introduction got them in the groove and they kicked seven uninterrupted scores between the 59th and 69th minutes.
* Eamon Callaghan’s point off the outside of his boot gets the nod over John Doyle’s sideline as the best piece of skill for the day.