GAA Football

Flashback: The last, and sweetest time Tyrone were All-Ireland champions

Brendan Crossan in Croke Park

2008 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship final: Tyrone 1-15 Kerry 0-14

THIS was the sweetest victory of them all. The first was obviously special.

The second was pretty damn good too. But, when the dust settles on what was achieved on September 21 2008, these Tyrone players will probably rank their third All-Ireland senior title as the most satisfying of triumphs.

They were written off and scorned in the early days of summer. So to see the Tyrone players drape themselves over the steps of Hogan for the third time in six years, and watch Brian Dooher raise the Sam Maguire again was a wondrous end to the Tyrone narrative.

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There was unbridled joy among Tyrone supporters yesterday afternoon as every man, woman and child from the O’Neill county, fortunate to get a ticket, poured onto the hallowed turf to share in one of those perfect sporting moments.

The Tyrone players had just scaled the highest mountain of their careers. As for Kerry, their three-in-a-row dream lay in tatters. Amid the heaving masses and delirium, Kingdom boss Pat O’Shea sought out Mickey Harte, offered hearty congratulations and disappeared from view, to be forever haunted by the men of Tyrone.

This cut will run deep in Kerry. Much deeper than ’05. One of the loudest cheers of the day was reserved for Mickey Harte. The truly inspirational manager enjoyed his moment when called to raise the famous silverware.

There were unfathomable calls for his head after Tyrone lost to Down in the Ulster Championship back in June. But the Glencull man kept the faith and rehabilitated his team in the Qualifiers. In the early evening shadows of summer, the Red Hands made hay and fought their way back into contention.

They arrived in Croke Park yesterday as underdogs, but fearless ones. It was a strange performance from the eventual winners. It was one of those displays that shouldn’t have worked, but did.

They made countless unforced errors during yesterday’s enthralling decider, but their sheer force of will, more than anything else, got them over the line.

For a team that prides itself on doing the basics well, many of their key men made uncharacteristic errors in possession. Balls were fumbled and passes went astray. But what the 2003 and 2005 All-Ireland winners did do well was smother Kerry’s much-vaunted full-forward line.

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They had goals written all over them but they couldn’t buy one yesterday. Pascal McConnell in the Tyrone goal, who was a late call-up for John Devine whose father passed away on Saturday night, was in brilliant form. Big Pascal denied Tommy Walsh in the 23rd minute and made a game-defining save from Declan O’Sullivan late in the match.

Few would have wagered a bet on Kieran Donaghy ending the game scoreless and Walsh nabbing just one point. Only the ‘Gooch’ Cooper lived up to his pre-match billing.

The Dr Crokes attacker ended the game with six points three frees and gave Conor Gormley a tough time in the opening 20 minutes. Indeed, Kerry threatened to run riot in the early stages, especially in midfield where the imperious Darragh O Se plucked umpteen balls out of the skies.

But for all their dominance around the middle of the field, the reigning All-Ireland champions could only fashion a one-point lead at the break (0-8 to 0-7). Before the break, though, Brian Dooher was beginning to motor. So, too, were Sean Cavanagh and Enda McGinley.

The returning Stephen O’Neill had also entered the fray after 25 minutes for the injured Collie McCullagh, and although he would finish the game scoreless, his presence did act as a spur to those around him. However, unsung hero Kevin ‘Hub’ Hughes proved an unexpected catalyst to the Tyrone effort in the opening move of the second half.

Thrown in for Collie Holmes, Hughes powered forward and saw his shot saved by Kerry ‘keeper Diarmuid Murphy. With the ball trickling towards goal and Padraig Reidy agonisingly off balance, Tommy McGuigan had the simple task of poking the ball into an empty net from two yards. It was a much-needed game-changer for Tyrone.

Ryan Mellon posted another score soon after McGuigan’s three-pointer, but Kerry showed admirable resilience and came firing back with scores from Walsh, Cooper (2), Tomas O Se and Darragh O Se. Tyrone, however, put their trust in big Sean Cavanagh to dig them out of a hole. Never has there been a player who always literally always performs on the big stage.

The Moy man dazzled Kerry’s Aidan O’Mahony with catches, jinks and shimmies and roared his team-mates on with three second half points. Inexplicably, Pat O’Shea waited until the 58th minute to throw on enigmatic wing-forward Paul Galvin as Kerry drew level (1-11 to 0-14). It was a substitution that could have been made much earlier given the lightweight contributions of Eoin Brosnan and Bryan Sheehan.

With Kerry trailing by a point, Declan O’Sullivan saw his 66th minute shot saved by McConnell in the Tyrone goal. Thereafter, every misplaced pass or fumble was greeted with gasps from the 82,204 crowd as Kerry looked to equalise.

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It was fitting, though, that gallant work-horse Enda McGinley of Errigal Ciaran got the next score of the game in the 70th minute, which effectively killed off Kerry.

Before the Tyrone cheers died down, ‘Hub’ Hughes and young substitute Colm Cavanagh stroked over further scores to put a bit of polish on the scoreboard.

It wasn’t emphatic and it wasn’t always pretty-but it was a perfect end to a tumultuous summer for the lion-hearted men of Tyrone.

 

 

TACTICAL TAKE

TYRONE

MICKEY Harte has a habit of getting it right for the All-Ireland final and this game was no exception. He made significant alterations from the victory over Wexford. The decision to pair Justin McMahon with his brother Joe was inspired. The McMahons were excellent. The Tyrone forward line looked impotent in the first quarter. Harte re-jigged the formation when Colm McCullagh went off injured. He put Martin Penrose to full-forward and he instantly scored a point. Sean Cavanagh flourished on the 40. Kevin Hughes made a big difference at midfield. His run led to the goal after half-time.

KERRY

PAT O’Shea will face a major inquisition after this result. Accusations of undue loyalty to his club-mate Eoin Brosnan are inevitable. Brosnan struggled to make any headway. He lost the battle for breaking ball against Ryan McMenamin (who picked up four in the first half alone). Yet Brosnan wasn’t replaced until the 42nd minute. The decision to replace Tommy Walsh with Paul Galvin was also questionable. Brian Sheehan seemed like the more obvious choice. Sheehan’s lack of pace was exposed and he was also missing free-kicks. Kerry didn’t look as well drilled as Tyrone. Their use of the long ball was often deplorable. Tyrone had a system which they knew how to execute. Kerry had a system, but their execution was poor.

TOP SCORE

SEAN Cavanagh hit some wonderful points for Tyrone and Davy Harte grabbed a lovely first half score, but Brian Dooher’s first of two points was the eye-catcher of the day.

The Tyrone skipper started sluggishly against Killian Young, but burst into life in the 25th minute when he skipped by his marker and Darragh O Se under the Cusack Stand.

 

TURNING POINT

GOALS win games and Tyrone’s three-pointer just after half-time allowed the Ulstermen to forge ahead by two points and seemed to give them renewed confidence. Substitute Kevin Hughes made an instant impression from the second half throw-in by bursting into opposition territory. He got on the end of Stephen O’Neill’s fist pass, but his shot was saved by Kerry ’keeper Diarmuid O’Sullivan. Tommy McGuigan was on hand to poke the loose ball home from two yards out. Top Score...

 

 

REF WATCH

MICK Deegan justified his selection to take charge of this year’s showpiece final with a sound display.

He rightly dished out a few yellow cards to Kerry players for indiscipline and kept a check on some early off-the-ball stuff. No qualms from Kerry about the man in the middle.

 

KEY BATTLE

PHILIP Jordan and Declan O’Sullivan shared a brilliant battle in Croke Park yesterday. The Kerry playmaker was in sparkling form in the first half, bagging two points, and severely testing the pace of the Tyrone wing-back. He also had a late goal chance saved by big Pascal McConnell. But Jordan wasn’t to be outdone. The Moy man came storming back in the second half and forced the issue with O’Sullivan. Their duel was one of the highlights of the day.

 

MATCH STATS
Tyrone: P McConnell; R McMenamin, Justin McMahon, Joe McMahon; D Harte (0-1), C Gormley, PJordan; C Holmes, E McGinley (0-1); B Dooher (0-2), M Penrose (0-1), R Mellon (0-1); T McGuigan (1-1, 1 free), S Cavanagh (0-5), C McCullagh (0-1, free);

Subs: S O’Neill for C McCullagh (25), K Hughes (0-1) for C Holmes (h-t), B McGuigan for O Mulligan for M Penrose (57), C Cavanagh (0-1) for T McGuigan (68);

Yellow cards: R McMenamin

Kerry: D Murphy; MOSe, T O’Sullivan, P Reidy;TOSe (0-1), A O’Mahony,KYoung; DOSe (0-1), S Scanlon; B Sheehan (0-2, 2 frees), Declan O’Sullivan (0-2), E Brosnan;CCooper (0-6,2frees), K Donaghy,TWalsh (0-1);

Subs: Darren O’Sullivan (0-1) for E Brosnan (43),TGriffin for S Scanlon (51), P Galvin for T Walsh (58), D Moran for B Sheehan (68);

Yellow cards: K Donaghy,AO’Mahony, DOSe, T Griffin, P Galvin

Referee: M Deegan (Laois)

Attendance: 82,204

 

 

Tyrone players and fans celebrate after winning the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship final in Croke Park in September 2008 Picture by Colm O’Reilly

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