3 key battles from yesterday’s All-Ireland semi-final...
Cooper was faced with multiple defenders when in possession but it was Aidan McCrory who was detailed as his marker. Kerry have been patient with Cooper on his return from a serious knee injury - he only started the quarter-final after Donaghy was ruled out, but all year the intention would have been to get the most out of him at the business end of the championship.
The numbers and pressure Tyrone were getting inside their own 45 meant Cooper played much of the first-half on the periphery although he did have a hand in an early Johnny Buckley score. While McCrory and the Tyrone defence would have been happy with their work before the break, Cooper started the second- half with a pointed free, followed up quickly with a score from play after a poor Niall Morgan kick-out.
The Kerry playmaker was beginning to find space to help create chances and took a number of big tackles one of which resulted in a tap over free for O’Donoghue after nearly two minutes of Kerry possession football.
When Tyrone rallied to draw entering the last 10 minutes Cooper was involved in the move that saw Anthony Maher push Kerry back in front and then took another big hit when trying to fist an insurance score. While it might not as been as flashy as some past performances Cooper has given in Croke Park, it was an effective ‘team-first’ display that ensured Kerry are back in the final.
Peter Harte has been a key member of this Tyrone team for years but with the evolution of their system he is now one of the individuals their style of play is built around. While he wears the number 7 jersey he is detailed as a half forward with a free role who will get back to support his half back line but then be a key ball carrier when Tyrone look to transition from defence to attack. Kerry would have been happy for Jonathan Lyne to spend the afternoon fully focused on trying to limit the Errigal Ciaran man’s influence. While Harte wasn’t as involved as in previous games he was still central to a number of key Tyrone moments. He helped create an early goal chance for Conor McAliskey after breaking the initial kick-out and then following up with a driving run. Lyne was doing a good job curtailing Harte’s attacking threat during the first-half but as the second-half wore on and Tyrone closed in Harte provided an assist for a Colm Cavanagh point on 55 minutes and then was fouled by Shane Enright when Tyrone had men on the overlap. When Tyrone were awarded a penalty Harte coolly sent Brendan Kealy the wrong way but that was his last real impact.
Overall Kerry will be satisfied with the job Lyne did on Harte.
It was at this stage of the 2014 Championship Kieran Donaghy sprung to life - helping save Kerry’s season in their drawn All-Ireland SFC semi-final with Mayo before embarking on a fairytale finish to the season which ended with Sam Maguire. This year has been a bit more stop start for the Kerry captain but they looked to get him involved from the first whistle. After winning the throw in to start the game, David Moran launched a high ball in on top of Donaghy and Justin McMahon (again one of the McMahon brothers detailed to mark Donaghy) but it was the big Tyrone man who broke the initial delivery and then recovered it himself to clear.
Kerry then broke from the norm and began to pull their full forward line out to bring Donaghy, O’Donohue and Cooper into the game. It meant the big Austin Stacks man spent long spells working in the half forward line and struggling to make an attacking inroads. Kerry did win what looked a fortuitous 45 when Donaghy and McMahon contested a high ball which looked like it last came off the Kerryman. Donaghy then snatched at a very scoreable effort when he rushed a 25 yard shot but he did finish the half with an inspirational catch and score to give Kerry a one point lead. It obviously wasn’t enough for Fitzmaurice and company as Donaghy was replaced by Paul Geaney at half-time. McMahon desevres huge credit for his work but negating the Donaghy threat was more of a win for Tyrone defensive structure.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved