O'Brien the game-changer as Sludden's substitution proves costly for Tyrone 11 months ago

O'Brien the game-changer as Sludden's substitution proves costly for Tyrone

Kerry 1-18 Tyrone 0-18

And then there were two...

An electric second half surge inspired by Paul Geaney and finished off by Stephen O'Brien and David Clifford helped Kerry book an All-Ireland final place against Dublin.

Four points down and devoid of ideas at half-time, the Kingdom showed their true colours in the second half with a blistering attacking display. Mickey Harte's strange decision to substitute the in-form Niall Sludden appeared to prove costly while a late black card as it stands, rules Stephen O'Brien out of the All-Ireland final during a dramatic day at GAA HQ.

His response to the black card question by Marty Morrissey after the game was brilliant though.

"I think the black card in the Meath game was very harsh. I was running off the ball and it was an accidental clash so we'll certainly be looking to appeal that one," he said.

They'll be praying he gets it turned over down south, because his impact was eventually the game-changer for Kerry.

It took a long time for Kerry to get going out there.

Tyrone looked at home on Jones' Road early on. After a delicious Frank Burns dummy cut the Kerry defence wide open, Michael McKernan bounced through with a smile on his face.

He kicked a point and patted his Kerry marker on the head. The Red hand roared. When David Clifford drove an uncharacteristic wide off the right moments later, they went even louder.

They've been here before, they've won here before. They're up for doing it again.

Sean O'Shea slotted a few frees and 45s to settle the Kingdom into it but Tyrone were sharper and hungrier. Mattie Donnelly kicked a trademark curler that was going over even before it left his boot. He ran back to his position like a man on a mission. Business all-round today.

Niall Sludden was similarly in the zone. He curled over two beauties. His movement was unmarkable.

Clifford made amends moments later with a brilliant individual effort off the left. So brilliant that you couldn't see it happening again. A momentary glitch in the Tyrone machine. They papered over the minute crack almost immediately.

Things got better for Tyrone from there. Why? Cathal McShane got on the ball. The Owen Roes attacker is the highest scoring player in this year's championship and it's no wonder why.

Jason Foley was left in his blistering trails time and time again in that first half as the flame headed attacker kicked points and nailed passes from all sorts of angles. By half-time he head three from play and an assist.

Phenomenal efficiency. Like those around him. Tyrone had nine points from just 12 shots in that first half. 0-9 0-5 they deservedly led going into the break.

Kerry's support game was non-existent. Their play was selfish and individualistic and it all climaxed in hopeless potshots.

Work to do, things to be said at half-time. This isn't the Kerry we grew up on.

And off the bat, things improved. The runs were being made, the passes were on the chest.

Sean O'Shea kicked another free before the same Kenmare Shamrock combined with Paul Geaney who curled over from no angle whatsoever.

At last, the Kingdom crowd had awoken. Paul Murphy began stretching his small legs to an unbelievable effect and Tyrone were invisible.

The substitution of Niall Sludden - who had been one of Tyrone's best players may have had something to do with that. He didn't look happy leaving the pitch and with good right. It would prove costly.

Down the other end, David Moran's forward runs were making a difference and Paul Geaney was orchestrating things up top. The Dingle man was on the verge of something special and on the 55th minute, he got his chance.

After drawing the white shirts in, he took no less than five out of the game with a brilliant fist-pass to Stephen O'Brien who made no mistake.

Clifford swung over another sumptuous one from the resulting kickout. Suddenly, this game had turned upside down.

That man Clifford kicked a few more with the game in the balance showing his credentials as one of the best players in Ireland as Kerry held onto win by three.


Niall Morgan (0-2f) Michael Cassidy, Ronan McNamee, Rory Brennan; Michael McKernan (0-1) Kieran McGeary, Frank Burns; Colm Cavanagh, Richie Donnelly (0-1), Mattie Donnelly (0-2) Niall Sludden (0-2), Peter Harte, Padraig Hampsey, Cathal McShane (0-6, 0-2f), Conor Meyler.


Conor McAliskey (0-1) for Niall Sludden (52) Tiernan McCann for Kieran McGeary (55), Brian Kennedy for Colm Cavanagh (70)


Shane Ryan; Jason Foley, Tadhg Morley, Tom O'Sullivan; Paul Murphy (C), Gavin Crowley, Shane Enright; David Moran (0-1) Adrian Spillane; Brian Ó Beaglaoich, Seán O’Shea (0-6, 0-5f, 0-1 45) Stephen O’Brien (1-2) David Clifford (0-4, 0-1f) Paul Geaney (0-3), Killian Spillane.


Gavin White for Adrian Spillane (HT), Jack Sherwood (0-1) for Shane Enright (HT), Tommy Walsh for Jason Foley (52), Dara Moynihan for Killian Spillane (59)