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28th Aug 2021

Pat Spillane curses moment of ‘rank stupidity’ as Tyrone stun Kerry

Patrick McCarry

Pat Spillane

KERRY 0-22 TYRONE 3-14

Conor McKenna’s bravery and Cathal McShane’s late burst were crucial, but this was a squad effort from Tyrone. By the end, Pat Spillane was not the only Kerryman in shock.

Tyrone are off to the 2021 All-Ireland Final after being Kerry by a point, after extra time, in a tense semi at Croke Park.

“This was set up as an ambush, and we got it,” said Spillane as the Tyrone players celebrated down on the pitch.

“Let’s not over-egg the omelette!”

Pat Spillane was telling Sean Cavanagh not to get carried away at Tyrone’s one-point lead, at half-time, but he may well have been referring to the goal chance Kerry managed to botch.

Spillane, though, had plenty to say about that too.

Tyrone put it up to Kerry in the All-Irelnd semi-final, at Croke Park, but still needed some rash play from the Kingdom to go in ahead at the break.

Paul Geaney was teed up for a one-on-one with Niall Morgan, midway through the first half. The scores were level at 0-5 and Geaney rounded Morgan only to pass to teammate Stephen O’Brien rather than score himself.

O’Brien smuggled the ball home, but he was standing in the square when Geaney passed. Referee David Coldrick ruled out the score.

To compound matters, Conor McKenna made no mistake, minutes later, when he got sight of the Kerry goal. David Clifford was dispossessed, Tyrone swept forward and McKenna slotted home from close range.

At half-time, up in The Sunday Game’s Croke Park gantry, Spillane lamented that butchered score.

“This goes down as rank stupidity, to be quite honest,” Spillane declared.

“Paul Geaney does great work, gets around his man, has an open goal – gets around two men! – an open goal and instead of kicking it in, he decides to pass it to Stephen O’Brien, who is standing INSIDE the square.”

“I’d blame Stephen O’Brien on that,” Ciarán Whelan interjected. “I wouldn’t be blaming Geaney!”

David Moran wins possession from the throw in during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship semi-final match between Kerry and Tyrone at Croke Park. (Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile)

Fight-backs and black cards

Kerry started the second half strongly, though, and Clifford and Sean O’Shea were keeping the scoreboard ticking steadily over. An O’Shea free, with Niall Sludden black-carded, put the Kingdom in front and Paudie Clifford came to the party (albeit a bit late) and they led by two.

Darren McCurry scored a fine point from play but the jig looked up for Tyrone after he was black-carded and Kerry totted over the points. Kerry wasted another goal chance when Morgan won a high ball and clattered Clifford in the process.

Just as it was looking bleak for the Ulster champions, Darragh Canavan burst through on goal. His shot was saved but Cathal McShane was there to fist in the rebound. All of a sudden, Tyrone led by one.

Sean O’Shea levelled with a free, though, after the hobbling Clifford was fouled as he lined up a shot on target. We were level and there were nine minutes of added time [due mainly to a concussion stoppage].

Back on the pitch after his 10-minute spell on the sidelines, McCurry put Tyrone a point clear with four minutes to go, but Clifford won his side yet another free before stepping up to pop that one over.

Extra time

Extra time began with Tadhg Morley coming on and Paul Geaney lacing back up the boots, but with David Clifford seated on the sideline. Tyrone struck first, and second, through Cathal McShane.

If Kerry had a hillock to overcome, McKenna’s second goal, after some haphazard Kerry defending, made it a mountain.

Conor McKenna of Tyrone celebrates his second goal. (Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile)

Tyrone eased off the throttle, though, and a fine Paul Murphy point cut the deficit to four points.

As the first half wound down, Diarmuid O’Connor’s point left it as a three-point game, but McShane was not finished yet. He pointed from play but a Mattie Donnelly foul gave O’Shea an easy free. Over it went and it was 3-14 to 0-20 with 10 minutes to play.

O’Connor pointed again, after a short break, and Geaney then swung over a peach of a score. It was suddenly a one-point game with only five minutes to play.

Tyrone rallied, for the umpteenth time, and McKenna’s burst for goal found a Kerry paw, getting Tyrone a 45. Niall Morgan chewed up all the remaining time with his dead-ball kick. His kick was wide but Kerry were way down the pitch with time running out.

Our Man of the Match: Kieran McGeary (Tyrone)

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