It didn't even result in a point, but Conor McKenna's bold decision clinched Tyrone win
This is what often makes the difference between winning and losing.
"Just to get that Tyrone jersey back on my back," Conor McKenna reflected, "and playing with the lads has been amazing."
Having returned from an Aussie Rules stretch, last year, McKenna revelled in his return to the Tyrone panel, even if it ended far too early. Donegal knocked Tyrone out in their one and only game of the 2020 championship, but McKenna was sticking about.
Fans of the Red Hand county would have felt their side would surely be better fixed, this year, once McKenna had more time back with the panel and Cathal McShane was fully fit.
Against Kerry, at Croke Park, both McShane and McKenna came good as the Ulster champions marched on to a final date with Mayo.
McKenna scored 2-0 with a vital first half goal and an extra time belt that put Tyrone five points clear. McShane came off the bench to score 1-3 as Brian Dooher's side won 3-14 to 0-22.
Conor McKenna finishes off a superb Tyrone counter after David Clifford was turned over pic.twitter.com/BolXezGhBb
— GAA JOE (@GAA__JOE) August 28, 2021
Much of the praise that will go McKenna's way will be centred around his two goals, as well it should. One late play, deep into extra time, deserves some shine, too, as it essentially won his team that game.
With five minutes to go, Kerry had narrowed the Tyrone lead to a point, but they could not fashion a clear shot for the equaliser. Niall Morgan vaulted his arm for a sideline that he knew would chew up the clock, and so it proved.
Still, it required flagging Tyrone legs and players with searing lungs to make the support runs and chase back to block passing lanes and shot attempts. The Ulstermen emptied the tank and, with 30 seconds to go, it was still a one-point lead.
Tyrone had possession inside the Kerry half and were looking for the killer score, but Peter Keane's men were leaving it all out there. Nothing was coming easy.
McKenna received a fisted pass and was out on the left-hand side of the pitch and in the shadow of the Cusack Stand. He could have done what so many of his teammates - no fault on them here - were doing. He could have sought out another white jersey and tried to keep possession, and wind down time.
McKenna had other ideas. He went for goal.
The Eglish St Patrick's clubman pinned his ears back, shrugged off his marker and went after his hat-trick. Kerry defenders converged on him, and he went for the safer option - going for the fisted point.
His attempt found, instead, a Kerry hand and Tyrone were awarded a 45. Morgan jogged up again and a whole minute went by before David Coldrick awarded the 45 and Morgan kicked it wide.
Perhaps conscious of Morgan's tactics, and Tyrone players practically begging for black cards with cynical fouls, Coldrick decided to give Kerry one more chunk of possession. Time was against them, though, and pressure told as Tommy Walsh's last-gasp effort curled wide.
Darren McCurry rushed to embrace Conor McKenna as the final whistle sounded. The goals had given Tyrone belief but that final, brave play had all but killed off The Kingdom.
Who wanted it more?
The RTÉ panel did not have too much time to properly analysis the final stages (but did find time for one more Pat Spillane vs. Sean Cavanagh spat), and we were left with brief summations.
Spillane was caught up on how Tyrone wanted it more, and how their belief was greater than Kerry's.
One man who was watching the game, and was not taking such trite commentary, was Cork's own Ronan O'Gara:
For someone to think ‘they wanted it more ´in a semifinal…please think it about it again.. I am pretty sure Kerry wanted to win desperately without knowing much.. pic.twitter.com/2p3ix7HGvo
— Ronan O Gara (@RonanOGara10) August 28, 2021
Sometimes, as O'Gara would be all too aware of, it is wanting it too much that can sometimes hamstring a team.
Whatever it was that did for Kerry, they will not enjoy looking back at how McKenna was able to make those three big plays. Two resulted in goals and the other was the nail in their coffin.