Kildare 1-21 Tyrone 3-16
Tyrone stole victory in the most sensational of finishes at St Conleth’s Park today.
Trailing by five points with scarcely 30 seconds of normal time remaining, the Red hands stunned Kildare with two killer goals right at the death.
Ronan O’Neill and substitute Mark Donnelly hit the net to inflict a heart-breaking, almost unbelievable defeat on the Lilyhwites.
Jason Ryan’s side played champagne football, and were clearly the better of two fine sides who laid on a game of supreme quality, treating the crowd of around 4,500 to 41 quality scores, despite the difficult weather conditions.
Kildare started brightly, with Paddy Brophy slotting over a point, after Eoghan O’Flaherty had opened the scoring from a free.
They went three ahead when Daroch Mulhall punished a foul on dangerous target man Tomas O’Connor from the 13 metre line.
The Lilywhites were in the mood, slicing through a hesitant Tyrone defence almost at will, and by the eighth minute they were six points clear, after O’Flaherty and the pacy Cathal McNally had fired over points.
O’Flaherty had extended the lead to seven points from a free, before the Red Hands finally registered their first point in the 12th minute though Mattie Donnelly.
Ronan O’Neil broke through to fire in a shot on goal, but ‘keeper Shane Connolly managed to get a fingertip to the ball to push it onto the crossbar and over for a point.
Tommy Moolick and Paul Cribbin were at the centre of Kildare’s best offensive play, with Moolick weighing in with a stylish score as the home side opened it out to 0-10 to 0-3 with 20 minutes played.
Tyrone needed to turn the game around, and with e help of Mattie Donnelly’s move from full forward to take on a deeper role, they set about chipping away at the deficit.
Connor McAliskey stroked over appoint, and frees from O’Neill, goalkeeper Niall Morgan and Darren McCurry narrowed the gap to four.
Kildare had a goal chance when Tomas O’Connor fielded Brophy’s left wing cross to turn and shoot, but Morgan pulled off a smart save.
And in the 29th minute, the Ulster men made a vital breakthrough when McCurry off-loaded for Emmet McKenna to skip through and plant a low shot past Shane Connolly.
O’Neill and Donnelly tagged on points, and at the interval, Kildare’s lead had been cut to a single point, 0-13 to 1-9.
But four minutes into the second half, they had the Red Hands back on the rack, O’Connor reaching high to punch O’Flaherty’s long delivery to the net, route one paying maximum dividends.
Again, defiant Tyrone responded with another flourish, and scores from Mattie and Mark Donnelly and Emmet McKenna kept them very much in touch.
A trademark Sean Cavanagh point narrowed the gap to one, and Kildare failed to take advantage of a handful of opportunities as they seized back control.
The home side did extend the advantage out to four points through O’Flaherty and Mulhall, and O’Flaherty’s seventh point had them five clear in the 70th minute.
But no-one anticipated the drama that was still to come as Tyrone set about chasing what many teams would have given up as a lost cause.
Sean Cavanagh and McCurry conspired to send O’Neill in for a clinical finish past Shane Connolly, and in stoppage time, Mattie Donnelly’s blocked effort was seized upon by Mark Donnelly, who scrambled the ball over the line from close rage to break Lilywhite hearts.
Kildare: S Connolly, M O’Grady (0-1), M Foley, H McGrillen, K Murnaghan, F Conway, P Cribbin (0-1), T Moolick (0-1), G White, C McNally (0-2), E O’Flaherty (0-6, 4f), S Hurley (0-2), P Brophy (0-3), T O’Connor (1-0), D Mulhall (0-5, 1f, 1 ’45).
Subs: D Hyland for Conway (46), R McNabb for R McKenna (46), P Fogarty for O’Connor (56), P O’Neill for McNally (57), J Gately for White (65), F Dowling for Mulhall (66), D Flynn for Moolick (70)
Tyrone: N Morgan (0-1, f), A McCrory, C Clarke, B Tierney, C McGinley, P Harte, R McKenna, C Grugan, C Cavanagh, E McKenna (1-2), R O’Neill (1-5, 0-3f), S Cavanagh (0-1), D McCurry (0-1, f), Mattie Donnelly (0-3), C McAliskey (0-2).
Subs: R McNamee for Harte (26, BC), Mark Donnelly (1-1) for Grugan (h-t), N McKenna for McGinley (50), K Coney for E McKenna (58)
Black cards: P Harte (26)
Referee: P O’Sullivan (Kerry).