What I learned today.
All Ireland Senior Football Semi-Final: Kerry 0-18 1-11 Tyrone
What a game at Croke Park today between Kerry and Tyrone in absolute horrendous weather conditions. The pregame media thoughts were very much in the camp good and evil. The good being the Kerry team, free flowing football and skill against Tyrone (the baddies for the weekend) whose play acting against Monaghan grew the ire of many seasoned pundit. I think a couple of pundits should give Tyrone the credit they deserve now. Mickey Harte’s charges are in a transitional phrase and when you consider their performances in February, the mere fact that Tyrone were standing toe to toe against the reigning All Ireland champions spoke volume. The tactics may be not to the football purist but by god did Tyrone believe in the system and nearly pulled off the upset today.
Kerry have to be credited for their victory today, the mere fact that they scored eighteen scores in a horrific rainy day spoke volumes but when Tyrone asked questions in both halves, the Kingdom management and players found the answers necessary. Kerry’s management must be credited for several key personnel changes before and during this contest. Peter Crowley produced a near perfect man marking job against Sean Cavanagh whose influence was nullified. Stephen O’Brien and Johnny Buckey’s cameos in the opening period cannot be understated, their five points from play in the first half gave Kerry the platform to drive on in the second half. Both players’ inclusion may have caused a stir in the Kingdom but both delivered in spades with performance full of intensity and work rate. However, the decision to call ashore Donaghy for Paul Geaney was the game changer. Tyrone were able to nullify Star’s influence in the opening period cutting out the aerial threat albeit the Austin Stack’s talisman did hit a good score just before the break. Geaney brought pace, power and movement which Tyrone were struggling to contend with. His three points were crucial to the final outcome and shows how Fitzmaurice and management were not afraid to make the big calls.
Kerry looked home and dry with fifteen minutes to go, four points up and Tyrone looking a bit leg weary in the middle third of the pitch. However, Kerry were their own worse enemy with two aimless passes leading to Tyrone hitting a quick 1-1 on the score board. Peter Harte’s penalty was as emphatic as you will see all year at Croke Park and when the impressive Ryan Bradley hit a splendid point to equalise affairs at 0-14 to 1-11, it felt like the game was going away from Kerry. Cue the experience and guile of the Kingdom to close out the contest with Anthony Maher, Paul Geaney and a sensational Barry John Keane long distance effort sealing the win. Tyrone tried to get back into the contest but a combination of poor free taking from distance and their inability to take several goal opportunities throughout the seventy minutes ultimately were the nails in the coffin for this year. This was an excellent contest and Kerry will look with interest to see how Dublin and Mayo fare next weekend. Kerry minors were too good for a gutsy Derry outfit. The Kingdom’s team ability to take scores from distance was the difference. Geaney and Foley look like two Kerry players that we will hear an awful lot more of in the years to come. An epic day for the Kingdom. Tyrone go home with their heads held high and with Mickey Harte’s intention to manage the team next season, a couple more additions to the panel could be the difference to get them over the line.
Quick note about the man in the middle. Decent performance considering the weather conditions. Marc O’Se’s black card was deserved. McNamee’s black card was questionable, yellow card was the maximum but how McNabb was still on the pitch after his head shot at Gooch late on was unbelievable. Shane Enright perhaps lucky not to get a black card also late in the second half. However, Deegan tried to let the game flow and it contributed to an absorbing contest. I wish the linesmen would assist the man in the middle more.
Not every day that I mention the sport but Athletics was saved from massive reputation embarrassment by Usain Bolt’s victory in the 100 metres final. Justin Gatlin (the baddie, the two time drug doping offender) looked like the winner midway through this contest but Bolt’s wore the American down and won the race in 9.79 seconds and 0.01 seconds faster than the American. Blood doping profiles need to be made public to allay fears of the sporting public. The recent allegations in the media have identified several loop holes on how athletes could potentially beat the system where that be athletics and cycling. Interesting times ahead with Seb Coe taking up the IAAF head job after the conclusion of this World Championship.
Could we be seeing the beginning of the end ot John Terry at Chelsea? The veteran centre half has struggled early for form this season and his red card today will not have appeased the critics or Mourinho. Courtois’s role in the sending off was pivotal too and Mourinho has problems defensively to address. Chelsea beat WBA and the highlight for the Blues was the performance of debutante Pedro. How did Manchester United let this player slip away? Pedro at twenty-one million is a bargain when you compare the bust signing of Di Maria. Chelsea have two high caliber players in Hazard and Pedro who will setup Costa for numerous goals this season. United look well short in this department already and massive question marks around Woodward’s ability to secure top world class player deals is becoming a massive weakness for the Manchester United’s teams ability to compete. Manchester City are the form side of the league so far this season. They were defensively tight against an Everton who probed for an opening but were ultimately undone by two second half goals from Kolarov (Howard beaten at his early post again) and a late Nasri strike. City’s squad is working cohesively at the moment and with three consecutive clean sheets in the league already this season, things are looking rosy on the blue side of Manchester. Southampton have the Europa League virus, contagious when infected with hangover symptoms on Sundays. Southampton could be dragged into a relegation battle this season. Watford’s lack of strike power will see them relegated by Christmas.