Tyrone overwhelmed a lacklustre Kerry side at Croke Park today to ensure this year's Bank of Ireland All-Ireland Senior Football Championship final will be an all-Ulster affair. Mickey Harte's troops' devastatingly intense, albeit seldom pretty, display of hard-working pressure football was all the more remarkable considering they lost Peter Canavan to an ankle injury in the first half. The All Star, sporting crutches after the game, must now await the results of an x-ray to see if he has a chance of being fit for the decider in five weeks' time.
If Canavan is not available for the final, however, it appears unlikely that the pundits will be so quick to write off the Red Hand county's chances of lifting the Sam Maguire Cup. Brian Dooher, Gerard Cavlan and Sean Cavanagh were just a few who played starring roles in powering the Tyrone machine to prove wrong the theory that the Ulster champions rely too heavily on Canavan's guile, composure and experience.
There are undoubtedly question marks over Kerry's hunger and commitment, however, their demise was arguably less to do with their own ineptness and more to do with Tyrone's ability to defend in numbers and punish the opposition on the break. The purists were surely not impressed, but although this style of play made for excessive frees - 72 in total - the sheer ferocity of the Tyrone play was admirable for the desire which motivated it, if not for its aesthetic qualities.
Tyrone got off to a blazing start and scored points through Canavan, Brian McGuigan and Enda McGinley.
Canavan was replaced by Stephen O'Neill after he went over on his ankle following a tussle with Seamus Moynihan after only 13 minutes. Cavanagh fisted over to establish a four point lead for the Ulster side, followed by scores from Owen Mulligan and another from McGuigan.
The stop-start nature of the foul-ridden game did not suit Kerry and it was an incredible 25 minutes before they registered their first score of the game through Colin Cooper. But Mulligan and McGuigan continued the scoring for Tyrone, to make it 0-08 to 0-01.
As the close of the half approached the men from the Kingdom missed three kickable frees through Dara Ó Cinnéide and Dara Ó Sé. O’Neill knocked over a free followed by two from Mulligan within the space of a minute. Before the break Marc Ó Sé got Kerry’s second point to leave the half-time score 0-09 to 0-02 in favour of Tyrone.
The expected second half Kerry comeback never arrived. Although Ó Cinnéide pointed from a free in the first minute of the restart it was followed by a myriad of missed frees by him and his team-mates.
Meanwhile, Tyrone's first half plan, although not as effective as it was before the interval, continued to produce sufficient results for them to maintain a healthy margin. This tactic was typified by Ryan McMenamin's point, which came ten minutes after Ó’Cinnéide's.
Declan O’Sullivan got a point three minutes later but Kerry never looked likely to score the goal they so desperately needed. Declan Quill got two more points from frees after he had replaced Ó’Cinnéide but two more O’Neill points, one produced by a breathtaking run and long distance fisted pass by Cavanagh, and an inspirational Dooher score sealed the result and completed Paidí Ó Sé's side's humiliation.
Tyrone: J Devine; C Gourley; C McAnallen; R McMenamin (0-01); C Gormley; G Devlin; P Jordan; K Hughes; S Cavanagh (0-01); B Dooher (0-01); B McGuigan (0-02); G Cavlan; E McGinley (0-01); P Canavan (0-01); O Mulligan (0-03). Sub: S O’Neill 0-3 for Canavan.
Kerry: O’Keefe; T O’Sullivan; Moynihan; McCarthy; T Ó’Sé; Fitzmaurice; Sheehan; D Ó’Sé; Brosnan; Hassett; Ó Cinnéide(0-01); S O’Sullivan; Cooper (0-01); D O’Sullivan (0-01); Russell. Subs - M Ó’Sé 0-1 for Sheehan, J Crowley for S O’Sullivan, S Scanlon for Russell, D Quill 0-2 for O’Cinneide, A MacGearailt for Hassett.
Filed by Barry J Whyte