If Kildare had shown any of the aptitude and conviction their manager Kieran McGeeney demonstrated in describing their abysmal performance in Dungannon yesterday their hopes of Division 1 football next season might not be so slim.
It doesn’t matter anyway, according to the Armagh man. Having failed to score between the 22nd and 69th minute of this game, he reckoned they don’t belong in the top-flight. “After that, I don’t think we deserve to,” he said.
McGeeney made no bones about it — Tyrone handed Kildare ‘a footballing lesson’, which he admitted left him feeling ashen-faced but certainly not lost for words afterwards.
“We were an embarrassment. We were poor. I don’t think there was anything else to describe it. We got taught a lesson in football.”
McGeeney’s performance was certainly more entertaining than the one provided by the two teams in O’Neill Park, which was the last minute change of venue following the tragic car explosion close to Omagh’s Healy Park.
Six points down at the break, 0-9 to 0-3, following an ugly first-half where they fought against the wind, it should have been a question of how Tyrone were going to protect their lead. Instead, they extended it.
But a lot of their good work was undone by the concession of five unanswered points going into half-time.
“They did not even get a rollicking because I don’t really believe in that,” said McGeeney when asked about the dressing room at the interval. “We missed five free-kicks from 35 yards out. Jesus. Even if we took those five free-kicks, playing as poorly as we did, then we are in the game. We just did not do anything right.”
McGeeney was particularly scathing of his attack, which contributed just two points from play. Indeed, John Doyle and Ronan Sweeney were Kildare’s only scorers and two of Doyle’s efforts were late frees.
“The forwards have to put their hands up. They had plenty of ball in the first half. Forwards always get the credit when they get the scores and when they don’t it is someone else’s fault. To score three points in 69 minutes of football at this level of football is pathetic.”
Naturally, such strong words are going to grab the focus of attention but this was Tyrone’s fourth league win on the trot — and their most impressive yet.
Like their victory over Laois last month, they had to battle against the elements in the second-half but showed terrific fortitude to stamp their authority on the game.
“It was good to get those nine points and have that cushion of six points,” admitted Mickey Harte. “I always felt we have the team that control play and can handle the ball with composure. I didn’t expect to win by as much but I felt if we had enough of a lead we could do enough to protect it by scoring more.”
The first-half was all about Martin Penrose, who kicked five points including four frees, but provided a couple of them as well, his cross-field kick to Brian McGuigan for his 25th minute point a real gem. In the second-half, Mark Donnelly — a late replacement for Stephen O’Neill — took over the majority of the scoring duties and booted three fine points from play. The scores, though, were the culmination of some excellent support play, with Seán Cavanagh continually looking to pierce the Kildare defence and McGuigan showing the type of awareness that made him the game’s best playmaker in the mid-Noughties.
With veterans Brian Dooher and Philip Jordan also making appearances near the end, it was no wonder supporters were cheering every Tyrone pass as Kildare were rightly humiliated.
Harte is not getting carried away, though. “We’re on an upward curve at the moment but we’re not in the top division anymore. We’re in the second division and we have to understand that. The way teams are building for the championship and they don’t always have the best opposition out on any given day. They’re doing a bit of experimenting as well. We’ll enjoy the day and the level of performance that we gave but there are lots of things to improve on.”
Scorers for Tyrone: M Penrose 0-5 (four frees); M Donnelly 0-3; B McGuigan 0-2; K Hughes, C Cavanagh, S Cavanagh (free) 0-1 each.
Scorers for Kildare: J Doyle 0-4 (three frees); R Sweeney 0-1.
Subs for Tyrone: PJ Quinn for McMenamin (temp 51-54, 63); P Jordan for McCaul (57); B Dooher for C Cavanagh (59).
Subs for Kildare: P O’Neill for Dowling (22); O Lyons for McLaughlin (40); B Flanagan for Kavanagh (43); M O’Sullivan for O’Flaherty (51); E Callaghan for Flynn (57).
Referee: David Coldrick (Meath).