Kerry go goal crazy in Killarney against porous Tyrone to secure joint league title success
Allianz Football League Division One Semi-Final:
By Tom McLoughlin
Kerry concluded their Allianz National League campaign with a total dismantling of a Tyrone side who, whilst admirably trying to alter their brand of football under Feargal Logan and Brian Dooher, seem to have forgotten and foregone any form of defensive shape. This was clearly brought home in illustrated in Killarney this evening when Kerry hit Tyrone for five first half goals and put the game beyond any doubt before half time. In truth, the five green flags raised in those first 35 minutes could have been eight or nine.
Kerry have unquestionably been the most lethal attacking force of the league, averaging 27 points per game including a total of 13 goals in their four matches. The mercurial David Clifford was once again on song top scoring with 1-6 but today was by no means a one man show and the strength of the team performance is what will please Peter Keane most. Kerry looked much stronger in defence than earlier outings with Gavin White, Tom O’Sullivan and in particular full back Jason Foley putting in tigerish displays. Allied with that defensive solidity was a budding midfield partnership between Diarmuid O’Connor and Adrian Spillane. This augurs well for further down the line as Kerry seem to be slowly acquiring the tools to try to wrestle Sam Maguire from Dublin’s grasp.
The men from Ulster had to endure a long trek to the south west corner of Ireland for this game and the journey will seem much the longer on the way pack with plenty to ponder. However, they started brightly in this game with early points from Kieran McGeary and Darren McCurry giving them a 0-2 to 0-1 lead after four minutes. David Clifford, who prior to this game had amassed a mammoth 5-21 in this three league games, soon put Kerry ahead when he was awarded a penalty in the 5th minute by referee Conor Lane for a late push in the back by Ronan McNamee. The Fossa man coolly slotted home low to the left of Niall Morgan and Kerry led by two points, a lead they would never relinquish.
Tyrone suffered another blow soon after when Darragh Canavan was stretchered off in the 8th minute and was replaced by Mark Bradley. Kerry showed no sympathy and the key period of the game came just before the water break as the Munster men bagged two goals in two minutes. Tyrone goalkeeper Morgan did not have a good day at the office and was directly at fault for three of the six goals conceded. A poor kick out from Morgan in the 15th minute was pounced on by Kerry and Gavin White had the vision and the accuracy to lob the Tyrone net minder from 40 metres. It was a sublime piece of opportunism executed to perfection.
Kerry compounded Tyrone’s misery immediately after when the Kingdom’s forward unit embarked on some wonderful interplay to net their third goal of the day. Sean O’Shea and David Clifford combined with a one-two before Clifford selflessly bi-passed Morgan with a fist pass to Dara Moynihan and the Spa clubman had the simple task of smashing the ball home. The score at the end of the first quarter was 3-1 to 0-3 and Tyrone had the respite of the water break to try and stem the tide as the time and space being afforded to the Kerry forwards was unforgiveable.
A Sean O’Shea free and a tidy Mike Breen point in the 23rd minute from a tight angle extended Kerry’s lead but Tyrone responded through Mark Bradley and a nice score from McCurry after some good work from Conor McKenna in winning a Kerry kick-out and quickly feeding McCurry to slot over. However, in the 28th minute Tyrone were hit with another sucker punch. Stephen O’Brien found himself in acres of space on the left touchline and he rampaged through unmarked to fist pass to O’Shea who fed the onrushing Paul Geaney coming off his shoulder and the Dingle player fired a low shot past Morgan. The score-line was now 4-4 to 0-5 and the game as a contest was essentially done and dusted.
Kerry looked much the hungrier and fitter side in the first half with their power and athleticism running through the middle causing their opponents untold problems. Most pleasingly for Keane, their defenders were marking tightly and had the likes of O’Brien and Paudie Clifford tracking back to aid the workload. Kerry scored their fifth goal just before half time courtesy of some wonderful vision from David Clifford allied with some charitable goalkeeping by Morgan. Clifford, as will increasingly happen being Kerry’s marquee forward, sucked in three Tyrone defenders before finding Geaney with a sublime reverse hand pass who was in oceans of space in front of goal. Geaney’s goal bound effort was hit fiercely yet straight at Morgan but the Edendork man did not get a strong hand to the shot and it inexplicably found the corner of the net. Kerry led 5-6 to 0-7 at half time, a lead of 14 points and Tyrone were shell-shocked having been outclassed and more disappointing for the Red Hand County, outworked too.
Logan and Dooher made a couple of changes at half time with Richie Donnelly and Ronan O’Neill entering the fray. As you would expect Tyrone came charging out of the blocks and seemed hell-bent on raising some green flags themselves. First-half substitute Tiernan McCann was picked out nicely by McCurry in the 43rd minute and McCann had only one thought on his mind when he fired a left foot daisy-cutter into the corner of the net past Kieran Fitzgibbon to reduce the deficit to 11 points. David Clifford decided he would put on his own show in the third quarter scoring four points, two of which were breathtakingly glorious frees from distance from the side-line, the likes of which even Maurice Fitzgerald would have purred at.
Kerry led 5-11 to 1-8 at the second water break and the game largely petered out in the fourth quarter. Kerry would empty their bench with veteran Tommy Walsh, Micheál Burns and Killian Spillane making cameo appearances, the latter two players scoring two points each from play to put their hands up for a starting berth. Another substitute Jack Barry put the icing on the Kerry cake in the 65th minute to score their scarcely believable sixth goal of the day. A long speculative ball was put in on top of Tommy Walsh and Morgan decided to come and clear man and ball but merely palmed the ball to the onrushing Barry, who had the easiest of tasks of rolling the ball into an empty net. The final result ended 6-15 to 0-14, such a deficit indicating that Tyrone’s “blanket of defence” of days gone by was certainly not draped anywhere near Killarney this afternoon.
In this most unique of years, Kerry emerge from this league campaign with plenty of positives and a joint coronation of a league title with old rivals Dublin. Next up for them is a Munster quarter-final date at home to in-form Clare where they will take nothing for granted after last year’s early Munster championship exit.
As for Tyrone, they will meet Cavan, who, in losing to Wicklow, were remarkably relegated to Division four this afternoon and in doing so suffered their third consecutive relegation. Tyrone now have four weeks before this Ulster championship contest and at least have a little bit of time to try to right the many wrongs of this afternoon. If we were looking for All Ireland contenders today in Killarney, only one team put their hand up for serious consideration.
Scorers – Kerry: David Clifford 1-6 (1 pen, 4 frees), Paul Geaney 2-0, Gavin White 1-0, Dara Moynihan 1-0, Jack Barry 1-0, Sean O’Shea 0-3 (1 free), Micheál Burns 0-2, Killian Spillane 0-2, Mike Breen 0-1, Jason Foley 0-1. Tyrone: Tiernan McCann 1-0, Darren McCurry 0-3 (1 free), Kieran McGeary 0-3, Paul Donaghy 0-1 (1 free), Mark Bradley 0-1, Peter Harte 0-1, Niall Sludden 0-1, Rory Brennan 0-1, Richard Donnelly 0-1, Matthew Donnelly 0-1, Ronan O’Neill 0-1.
Kerry: Kieran Fitzgibbon; Brian O’Beaglaoich, Jason Foley, Tom O’Sullivan; Mike Breen, Gavin Crowley, Gavin White; Diarmuid O’Connor, Adrian Spillane; Stephen O’Brien, Sean O’Shea, Paul Geaney; David Clifford, Dara Moynihan, Paudie Clifford. Subs: Micheál Burns for P Clifford (43), Tommy Walsh for Geaney (43), Killian Spillane for O’Brien (50), Jack Barry for S O’Shea (54), Jack Sherwood for White (60), Joe O’Connor for Moynihan (60), Paul O’Shea for A Spillane (63), Graham O’Sullivan for Breen (70).
Tyrone: Niall Morgan; Cormac Munroe, Ronan McNamee, Padraig Hampsey; Michael McKernan, Peter Harte, Liam Rafferty; Matthew Donnelly, Frank Burns; Kieran McGeary, Darragh Canavan, Conor Meyler; Darren McCurry, Conor McKenna, Paul Donaghy. Subs: Mark Bradley for Canavan (8) Tiernan McCann for Munroe (24), Richard Donnelly for Burns (HT), Ronan O’Neill for Donaghy (HT), Rory Brennan for Rafferty (46), Niall Sludden for McKernan (46), Conn Kilpatrick for McNamee (67)
Man of the Match: David Clifford
Referee: Conor Lane (Cork)