Tyrone seize the harsh, hard day

Tyrone 0-13 Kerry 0-6

It was far more significant than the fact that they triumphed in a tough, dour even dreadful contest which produced 72 frees, or that they led from start to finish against a Kerry side which was unimaginably poor at stages of the first half.

Arguably, its distinguishing feature was that it was achieved without the inspiring presence of team captain Peter Canavan, who was forced off with an ankle injury after only 13 minutes.

In some respects it was even more demoralising for Páidí Ó Sé's team than their semi-final defeat by Meath two years ago, even though they lost that game by 15 points. That day, they were totally outplayed; this time, they had sufficient possession late in the first half and during periods later on to have closed the gap on Tyrone.

However, while it is easy to find fault with the Kerry forwards, it was more of a case of the team never settling as a unit and not playing up to expectations. And the Ulster champions deserve massive credit for the highly effective nature of their tackling, their ability to win so much possession from 50/50 ball as well as broken play, and the character they showed in overcoming Canavan's loss. It may not have been pretty, but it severely undermined the Kerry challenge, to the extent that they never once looked capable of winning.

Seamus Moynihan, marking Canavan, began brightly when he intercepted a pass to the Tyrone captain inside the first minute, which possibly saved a goal. But in the short time Canavan was on the field he showed he had the beating of him. Eoin Mulligan started well on Mike McCarthy, except that he wasn't to see a lot of ball, but at a time when Tyrone were dominating out around midfield and penetrating regularly at half-forward, the player who was causing Kerry the biggest headache was Gerard Cavlan.

Eamonn Fitzmaurice marked him for a while after Tomás Ó Sé went to centre-back to try and limit Brian McGuigan, who also started well, and Tom O'Sullivan was brought out when Cavlan began to win an increasing amount of ball.

Notably, Darragh Ó Sé was not making his presence felt around midfield, one reason being that, as Tyrone began to monopolise the play, he was forced back onto the defensive more and more. At the other end of the field, Tyrone were very comfortable in coping with a much reduced threat from a Kerry forward line which struggled for openings and lost out in physical challenges. It was in such sharp contrast to the opening phase of the quarter-final, when Ó Sé dictated the trend of the game and laid on a perfect service for the inside players.

Stephen O'Neill came in for the Tyrone captain as a direct replacement. And without making a huge impression, he more than justified his place.

Lucky not to have conceded a goal in the sixth minute, when Enda McGinley pushed a Mulligan cross narrowly over the bar, Kerry's only satisfaction over the next ten minutes was in preventing the Ulster champions from adding to their early tally of three points. But they were making no headway in attack themselves.

Sean O'Sullivan made no headway against Philip Jordan, one of Tyrone's top performers; Liam Hassett, surprisingly, never got into the game; nor did Mike Frank Russell, who faded after taking a heavy knock.

Colm Cooper, alone of the six, got some quality ball, but his kicking was to let him down. Tyrone were finding it harder to penetrate and were greatly relieved to see Kerry kick away some good opportunities.

By the end of the half extended eight minutes because of a series of hold-ups they had accumulated seven wides. And in the context of Tyrone's interval 0-9 to 0-2 lead, this was to seriously handicap Kerry.

Ten minutes into the second half, little had changed. Brian Dooher was starting to exert a strong influence for Tyrone through his Trojan work on the flanks, but Kerry showed more confidence, with a better return from Moynihan, Darragh Ó Sé, Eoin Brosnan and substitute Seamus Scanlon.

Once John Crowley was introduced at left corner-forward, he had the strength to make openings. Declan O'Sullivan had a costly miss in the 50th minute, after Hassett set him up and he blew the ball over the bar. But he redeemed himself a short time later when he made a goal-line save from a palmed shot from McGinley, 'made' by a more involved Mulligan.

Shortly after that, two frees from substitute Declan Quill had the margin down to a mere four points. It might have gone lower but for some excellent play by Tyrone at the heart of their defence, with Cormac McAnallen outstanding and much improved play from midfielders Sean Cavanagh and Kevin Hughes. Quill's second free was followed by a vital point from Stephen O'Neill, giving Tyrone their first score in 18 minutes, and returning their psychological advantage.

After that, when a good Crowley move failed to earn him a penalty, there was no way back for Kerry.

Tyrone moved up a gear and virtually owned the ball up to the final whistle. The thought of Canavan hurting on the sideline must have motivated the Northerners every bit as much as his presence on the field would have.

lReferee Gerry Kinneavy had a very difficult task because of the physical nature of the contest, and didn't cope as well as might have been expected.

Scorers - Tyrone: B. McGuigan 0-3; S. O'Neill 0-3 (0-1 free); E. Mulligan 0-3 frees; R. McMenamin, P. Canavan (free), S. Kavanagh and B. Dooher 0-1 each.

Kerry: D. Quill 0-2 frees; C. Cooper, M. Ó Sé, D. O Cinneide (free) and D. O'Sullivan 0-1 each.

TYRONE: J. Devine; C. Gourley, C. McAnallen, R. McMenamin; C. Gormley, G. Devlin, P. Jordan; K. Hughes, S. Cavanagh; B. Dooher, B. McGuigan, G. Cavlan; E. McGinley, P. Canavan (capt.), E. Mulligan. Subs: S. O'Neill for Canavan (injured, 13th minute); C. Holmes for McGinley (64th).

KERRY: D. O'Keeffe; T. O'Sullivan, S. Moynihan, M. McCarthy (capt.); T. Ó Sé, E. Fitzmaurice, J. Sheehan; D. Ó Sé, E. Brosnan; S. O'Sullivan, D. O Cinneide, L. Hassett; MF Russell, D. O'Sullivan, C. Cooper. Subs: M. Ó Sé for Sheehan (32nd minute); J. Crowley for S. O'Sullivan (38th); S. Scanlon for Russell (second half); D. Quill for O Cinneide (52nd); A. MacGearailt for Hassett (69th).

Referee: G. Kinneavy (Roscommon).

* Attendance: 58,687.

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