Nothing personal, simply business from Kerry

Kerry 0-18 Tyrone 1-11: This was billed as personal for Kerry but it sure looked like business.

When Peter Canavan raised a doubt about Kerry’s hunger after last September’s feat, he sounded more hopeful than confident.

He was right to be uncertain. Kerry yesterday became the first defending champions since their 2008 team to reach a second successive final showing little sign that last year’s triumph has satiated their appetite.

Unlike the qualifier in Killarney three years ago there were no hysterics from Kerry at the final whistle, just clenched fists raised aloft and the odd bearhug.

So many of this Kerry team watched on rather than lived through the three defeats to Tyrone in the Noughties. When there no scars to be healed, there were no tears to be shed.Getting one over on Tyrone in Croke Park for the first time since 1986 won’t be sneezed at but neither will it be glorified.

The real enemy lies within this Kerry camp where the competition for places is clearly more fierce than anywhere else.Two of their substitutes kicked the last three points of this game to secure it. Just before, Anthony Maher, a player ousted for the drawn Munster final, had put Kerry back into a lead that had looked reasonably comfortable despite Tyrone’s goal chances prior to Peter Harte’s penalty goal.

Johnny Buckley was the pick of the Kerry players but didn’t start against Kildare the last day having injured his knee. Donnchadh Walsh and Stephen O’Brien, close seconds to him, were both on the bench for games in the Munster championship.

Eamonn Fitzmaurice mightn’t have the greatest Kerry panel at his disposal but he has cultivated the most competitive. David Moran yesterday was far from the footballer of the year contending form he had been in over the two previous games. And yet it didn’t matter as the effectiveness of an artisan half-forward line compensated.

“Stephen had a great game against Kildare,” said the Kerry manager. “We can see the form lines in training. When they are going well with training, they generally do bring it to the pitch. Johnny, earlier in the summer, had knee injuries, had a complication with his knee affecting his form and might have been affecting his confidence. Physically, he’s perfect now, been playing well the last couple of weeks. And he brought that form to Croke Park which was great to see.”

The heights Buckley was hitting in the first-half where he made a mockery of Ronan McNabb’s marking, Walsh and O’Brien hit in the second- half particularly in the third quarter when they excelled on the Tyrone kick-out as part of Kerry’s high press. Walsh leeched one Tyrone restart after another five minutes into the half, both possessions ending up in scores, while Paul Geaney’s movement added something new when introduced for Kieran Donaghy.

The Kerry captain kicked the last point on the cusp of half-time to put Kerry 0-8 to 0-7 ahead but didn’t reappear on the resumption of play. When little was sticking in their full-forward line during a first-half of mirror football, it was little of a surprise. “To be fair to Kieran, in the first-half, the service was poor,” remarked Fitzmaurice. “He was getting on ball which was at his feet, surrounded by four or five Tyrone men. The supply into him wasn’t great. He caught a great ball just before half-time and kicked a great point. We just felt that with Paul Geaney it would be a slight change in emphasis up front. The lads out the field, the accuracy improved in the second-half. Paul won a bit of ball into his chest that maybe Kieran wasn’t being supplied with in the first-half. So whether it was a fact that Kieran was there and there was just one way of doing it, that’s something we’ll have to look at.”

Kerry went four points clear through a James O’Donoghue free in the 50th minute having survived a scare when Brendan Kealy was flexible enough to deny Mark Bradley a 44th minute goal. Tiernan McCann booted a ground shot wide shortly after Kealy’s denial and O’Donoghue stepped up again when Cooper was upended by Ronan McNamee. But the next three scores all came from Tyrone, Bradley’s 62nd minute point tying things up. Before that, Colm Cavanagh split the posts prior to a foul by Shane Enright that was as deserving of a black card as Marc Ó Sé’s suitably punished infringement in the first-half. Instead, Maurice Deegan issued him a reprieving yellow card.

Tyrone may have considered the penalty won by Barry Tierney and goaled by Harte was justice for the two previous black card calls against them even if Killian Young’s challenge on him hardly appeared worthy of it.

Harte stuck the ball into his bottom right corner and when Bradley followed it up with the leveller the tide was with Tyrone. Only Kerry never lost their focus. Making inroads down Tyrone’s left wing as they did time after time in the second-half, Maher coolly put them back ahead in the 63rd minute. Three minutes later, Aidan O’Mahony was so lucky not to be penalised for a tackle on Padraig McNulty in the small rectangle, the Tyrone substitute yellow carded instead for diving.

Following that let-off, more Kerry points came as Tyrone spurned their shots at goal. Mickey Harte knew it was the breaking of them. “We created the next two or three scoring chances but we didn’t take them. When you don’t take them, it puts paid to all that good work and all that drive and all that momentum that you’re creating because of the penalty. We didn’t back it up on the scoreboard so the momentum went astray then for that reason.”

Kerry had plenty of a say in that too, though. September’s on the door step and once more they are a-knocking.

Scorers for Kerry:

J O’Donoghue (0-4, 3 frees, 1 45), J Buckley, P Geaney (1 free) (0-3 each); S O’Brien, C Cooper (1 free) (0-2 each); K Donaghy, D Walsh, A Maher, BJ Keane (0-1 each).

Scorers for Tyrone:

D McCurry (0-3, 1 free); P Harte (1-0, pen); C McAliskey, M Bradley (0-2 each); R McNabb, N Morgan (free), M Donnelly, C Cavanagh (0-1 each).

KERRY:

B Kealy; P Murphy, M Ó Sé, P Crowley; J Lyne, S Enright, K Young; A Maher, D Moran; D Walsh, J Buckley, S O’Brien; C Cooper, K Donaghy, J O’Donoghue.

Subs for Kerry:

F Fitzgerald for M Ó Sé (black card, 16); P Geaney for K Donaghy (h-t); B Sheehan for D Moran (55); D O’Sullivan for S O’Brien (61); A O’Mahony for P Crowley (62); BJ Keane for D Walsh (70+2).

TYRONE:

N Morgan; R McNamee, Justin McMahon, C McCarron; T McCann, R McNabb, A McCrory; C Cavanagh, M Donnelly; P Harte, D McCurry, C Meyler; S Cavanagh, C McAliskey, S Cavanagh.

Subs for Tyrone:

P McNulty for C Meyler (47); B Tierney for A McCrory (55); C Clarke for R McNamee (black card, 56); R O’Neill for D McCurry (67).

Referee:

M Deegan (Laois)

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