GAA Football

Tyrone brush aside Kildare on road towards Super 8s

Tyrone skipper Mattie Donnelly evades the attentions of Kildare’s Chris Healy during the Red Hands’ All-Ireland Qualifier win in Newbridge on Saturday evening Picture by Sportsfile
Kenny Archer in Newbridge

All-Ireland SFC qualifiers round three: Kildare 1-15 Tyrone 2-22

NEWBRIDGE, but the same old road for the dogged Red Hands, who roll on relentlessly towards the Super Eights along their familiar route through ‘the back door’.

Questions about their prize-winning pedigree remain but Tyrone once more proved their mastery in the qualifiers, moving above Kildare at the top of this particular tally onto 30 victories.

After twice edging out the Lilywhites by two-point margins in previous Championship meetings, this was not the close encounter of the third kind that had been anticipated.

Tyrone weren’t out of this world but they found far too much space too often for the hosts’ liking, easing to a 10-point win with goals from Michael Cassidy and Darren McCurry.

Their cause was helped by the somewhat harsh dismissal of Kildare full-back Mick O’Grady for a second yellow card with a third of the game to go.

However, even before that moment Mickey Harte’s men had never trailed for a second, were never less than three points clear after they first bagged a goal in the sixth minute, and ended up with 2-17 from play.

Debate their tactical approach all you like, but that’s an eye-catching return away to a team that was one win away from earning promotion to Division One.

On this evidence, however, Kildare are quite some distance from that top level, with only their midfield really showing the right stuff required to compete with the best.

Tyrone were better in every other department without clicking into top gear and eased to the win without the suspended Tiernan McCann and two other regulars absent through injury, Paudie Hampsey and Richie Donnelly.

In a highly unusual twist, both teams played as per the match programme, but somewhat unexpectedly this was never a real contest.

In the previous Championship meetings between these two counties over the past decade the announcement of five minutes of added time would have been greeted with a mixture of fear and hope from the respective sides.

On Saturday evening it was met with a collective groan.

Kildare were nine points behind at that stage and a man down after losing full-back Mick O’Grady to a second yellow card in the 50th minute and never threatened to stop Tyrone’s progress.

Indeed the Red Hands took a grip of this game very early on, opening up a 1-2 to no score lead inside 10 minutes, that first goal coming from wing-back Michael Cassidy

Cathal McShane retained possession in the left corner, found Niall Sludden, and his fast fist-pass picked out Cassidy, who fired a low right-footer to the net.

Although Neil Flynn opened Kildare’s account in the 12th minute, that proved to be his only point from play. Their other corner-forward, Adam Tyrrell, could only do likewise, and while injury contributed to full-forward Ben McCormack being subbed with only just over 10 minutes gone, Ronan McNamee had bossed him as he marshalled a resolute Red Hands rearguard.

Even though they often pulled everyone other than full-forward Cathal McShane back into their own half, Tyrone’s rapid counter-attacking in numbers meant they added scores from defenders Rory Brennan and Frank Burns and midfielder Colm Cavanagh, with the Moy man well involved further forward.

Kildare’s midfield pairing of Kevin Feely and Fergal Conway was keeping them in contention, though, not only by garnering possession but also directly on the scoreboard.

Initially that was through points from Conway but then Feely shot them back into the game.

Tyrone seemed to be cruising comfortably, but a moment’s hesitation allowed the hosts a glimmer of hope.

The visiting defence stopped, expecting Conway to be called for over-carrying, but no whistle went. Instead, he kick-passed to Peter Kelly, who laid off to Keith Cribbin, and he released Feely to blast a fierce shot past Niall Morgan.

The hosts made it a three-point game at the break, 1-6 to 1-9, following yet another super Conway score, but that was closest they would get.

Tyrone doubled their lead inside 13 minutes of the second half, advancing to 1-15 to 1-9 ahead, with a couple of those points coming from the impressive Peter Harte. The visitors also gained the advantage of an extra man with the dismissal of O’Grady, who appeared to have been pulled into contact initially by McShane.

The Owen Roe’s man converted the subsequent free but Tyrone didn’t seem too interesting in exploiting their numerical superiority, at least not beyond patiently keeping possession.

For much of this match McShane was left ploughing a lone furrow up front, albeit as some sort of sleek, smart plough which needed two men to try to handle him.

Kildare did show some spirit, at least for a short spell, registering three of the next four scores, and were still within four points in the 64th minute, at 1-13 to 1-17 - but then Tyrone hit them with a second goal.

Conor Meyler released substitute Michael McKernan on the left and McCurry leapt at the far post to palm in the long hand-pass across the face of goal from the Coalisland lad.

That sparked the Red Hands into finally cutting a little bit looser in the closing stages, with the excellent Harte to the fore once more.

McShane really should have added a third goal when set free by a fabulous kick-pass from Burns, but he flashed his shot over rather than under the bar.

Kildare belatedly went for goal as full-time approached, sub Cathal McNally drilling an effort off an upright and Tyrrell trying to net a free but only getting a point.

Tyrone goalkeeper Morgan finally lost a kick-out, in the third minute of added time, but the Red Hands comfortably claimed the title of ‘winningest county in qualifier history’.

They’ll still have to improve to have any hope of claiming the ultimate prize but this was a job well done.

Tyrone will now face a beaten provincial finalist in round four, one of Cavan, Cork, Galway, and Meath - and will be favoured to win whoever they come up against.

Kildare: M Donnellan; M Dempsey, M O’Grady, P Kelly (0-1); C O’Donoghue, E Doyle (capt.), D Hyland; K Feely (1-2), F Conway (0-3); D Slattery, C Healy, K Cribbin; A Tyrrell (0-5, 0-3 frees), B McCormack, N Flynn (0-3, 0-2 frees).

Substitutes: J Hyland for McCormack (11, inj.); T Moolick (0-1) for Cribbin (49); M Barrett for Healy (52); E O’Flaherty for Slattery (60); K O’Callaghan for Flynn (64); C McNally for Hyland (68).

Blood sub: O’Flaherty for Slattery (11-12).

Yellow cards: O’Grady (26 and 50); Kelly (75).

Red card: O’Grady (50, two yellows).

Tyrone: N Morgan; HP McGeary, R McNamee, R Brennan (0-1); M Cassidy (1-0), K McGeary, F Burns (0-2); C Cavanagh (0-1), B Kennedy; M Donnelly (capt.) (0-3), N Sludden, P Harte (0-7, 0-3 frees); D McCurry (1-2), C McShane (0-5, 0-2 frees), C Meyler.

Substitutes: B McDonnell for Kennedy (black card, 22); M McKernan for K McGeary (55); C McAliskey (0-1) for Sludden (60); K Coney for McCurry (66); C McLaughlin for HP McGeary (71); A McCrory for Cassidy (72).

Black card: Kennedy (21, replaced by McDonnell).

Referee: Paddy Neilan (Roscommon).

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