Kildare 0-12 Tyrone 1-11
If this was the end of Kieran McGeeney’s sojourn in Kildare, it didn’t feel like it.
Sure, Saturday brought a halt to his side’s unbeaten run of 16 games after they had fought back from arrears of six points but supporters seemed more exercised about referee Joe McQuillan’s performance than their own team’s shortcomings.
This season has been a marriage for Kildare: knitting together a fistful of excellent U21s with a seasoned brigade. Some leeway had to be given but then so many of the same mistakes in previous seasons surfaced again.
Poor shot-taking, for one. As much as Tyrone were forcing them into shooting from angles, some of their kicking in the first half was abysmal, Johnny Doyle and Niall Kelly their only scorers. Slack marking was another: the leisure at which Matthew Donnelly was allowed to score Tyrone’s 10th minute goal and Mark Donnelly permitted to jog before being pulled down for a penalty were indictments of the Kildare defence.
And why didn’t Paul Cribbin start? Their best performer in the rout by Dublin, on Saturday he was once again a solid performer and yet but for Daniel Flynn’s injury mightn’t have been seen until the second-half.
For a manager who is known by his loyalty as much as his honesty, McGeeney has no hesitation in jettisoning players from his team when Jim McGuinness has shown what patience in key players can reap.
Tyrone weren’t great either; they went 23 minutes without a score and were steamrolled in midfield until Aidan Cassidy’s introduction.
“It was crucial because we were losing a lot of possession there,” admitted Tyrone boss Mickey Harte. “We were half getting our hands on it but not completely holding it. That put us under pressure, put us on the backfoot, we had to do more defending than attacking so the introduction of Aidan Cassidy was a major move for us there. Over the whole game there were lots of footballers that played good football at different times. The load was shared, different people just stood up at different times and I think that’s what makes a good team.”
Tyrone will be the better for this test, though, and Stephen O’Neill, who gave Peter Kelly a torrid time before his 63rd minute dismissal, now has his playground of Croke Park to look forward to.
They led 1-6 to 0-4 at the break when McQuillan faced his first torrent of verbal abuse from Kildare supporters although Doyle put his team’s under-performance in that period down to “a little bit of inexperience”.
For Kildare, two goals in four Championship games is a poor return and they hardly threatened Pascal McConnell’s nets on Saturday, Niall Kelly’s blazing effort over the bar in the 10th minute their best chance.
Kelly was their best performer here and his departure from the game in the 58th minute with injury was almost as pivotal as his namesake Peter’s sending off five minutes later.
O’Neill’s saved penalty in the 47th minute after Emmet Bolton had upended Mark Donnelly threatened to be the key point in the game.
Kildare went up the field from it and could have inflicted a major psychological blow had Padraig O’Neill’s point attempt not fallen short.
It would have put Kildare in front for the second time in the game but Tyrone were handed a reprieve, one which they grabbed with both hands.
Harte said: “We knew when we won that penalty it was going to be a great score for us or a great boost for Kildare if they did save it and it turned out the latter and it did give them a real kick-on. But I think that is even more praiseworthy of our team that they dealt with the miss of that penalty and still carved out a result because they picked out some good scores after that and it wasn’t easy to get scores there because it was a highly intense game.”
Darren McCurry’s 50th minute free was Tyrone’s first score since the 29th minute and while Doyle equalised shortly after the next four scores all came for the visitors.
Either side of frees by Sean Cavanagh and Martin Penrose, Mark Donnelly and Peter Harte found their range.
An Eoghan O’Flaherty point in injury-time put one score between the teams and Seanie Johnston provided it from a sideline effort but it was a point — not a goal — as he overcooked the ball intended for the danger area.
The final whistle blew after McConnell’s restart and Kildare’s proud qualifier record under McGeeney was stopped.
With Meath to face in five days, Harte afterwards was more concerned about fulfilling his guarantee following the defeat by Donegal that Tyrone would make the All-Ireland quarter-finals.
“At least we are only one game away from it now, which is pleasing.
“But Meath will want to do the same thing. They had a good Leinster final and have a whole lot of new players that wouldn’t have been there even the last time we met them so it will be a big challenge for us again.”
Scorers for Kildare: J Doyle (0-6, four frees); N Kelly (0-2); P O’Neill, P Cribbin, E O’Flaherty, S Johnston (sideline) (0-1 each).
Scorers for Tyrone: Matthew Donnelly (1-1); S Cavanagh (0-4, three frees); D McCurry (0-3, frees); Mark Donnelly, M Penrose (free), D Harte (0-1 each).
KILDARE: S Connolly; H McGrillen, P Kelly, D Hyland; E Bolton, M O’Flaherty, E Callaghan; Daryl Flynn, P O’Neill; Daniel Flynn, N Kelly, E O’Flaherty; J Doyle, T O’Connor, P Brophy. TYRONE: P McConnell; C McCarron, C Clarke, A McCrory; R McKenna, P Harte, C Gormley; C Cavanagh, S Cavanagh; Matthew Donnelly, Joe McMahon, Mark Donnelly; D McCurry, S O’Neill, M Penrose.
Subs for Kildare: P Cribbin for Daniel Flynn (inj 20); S Hurley for E Callaghan (35+2); S Johnston for P O’Neill (55); A Smith for N Kelly (58); E Doyle for T O’Connor (65).
Sent off: P Kelly (63, second yellow) Subs for Tyrone: A Cassidy for C Cavanagh (43); D Carlin for R McKenna (52); K Coney for D McCurry (58); C McAliskey for S O’Neill, Justin McMahon for C McCarron (inj, both 69).
Referee: Joe McQuillan (Cavan).
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