GAA Football

Home comforts see Darren McCurry snatch the limelight as Tyrone come on strong to topple Kingdom

Cathal McShane made his Tyrone return in yesterday's Division One victory over Kerry in Edendork. Picture by Seamus Loughran
Neil Loughran in Edendork

Allianz National Football League Division One: Tyrone 0-14 Kerry 0-13

IT takes a bit of going to overshadow David Clifford when the Kingdom roll into town, never mind Cathal McShane’s dramatic return to the Tyrone fold, but Darren McCurry pulled it off in some style yesterday.

On his home patch in Edendork, after the overnight downpour had proved too much for Healy Park to handle, McCurry stepped up to sink Kerry at the death – a spectacular 70th minute sideline kick the pick of the bunch.

Even the great Maurice Fitzgerald, part of Peter Keane’s backroom team, must have nodded in approval as the ball split the posts, McCurry defying the brutal conditions and all that Storm Ciara could throw at him.

That was his fifth of the day and put the Red Hands two up, 0-13 to 0-11, heading into added time, ‘Dazzler’ tagging on another free three minutes later to keep Tyrone’s noses in front as both counties finished with 14 men following second yellows for Peter Harte and Clifford.

It was another Edendork man, Niall Morgan, who helped Mickey Harte’s men stay in contention after a first half that bore the brunt of the bad weather, Morgan’s three frees vital as they kept the Kerry lead down to four, 0-8 to 0-4, following 35 minutes of sodden struggle.

The way they attacked the start of the second half was hugely impressive, bagging the first four scores to pull level inside nine minutes, but Harte felt the manner in which they had weathered that storm was decisive.

“I do believe we really won the game in the first half,” he said.

“The fact we were able to hold them to four points at half-time was critical. It would’ve been easy for them to slip into a six, seven, eight, nine point lead, then it would’ve been very difficult to take it back.”

And while McCurry stole the show in the end, smiling from ear to ear as he left the field to pats on the back and high-pitched squeals, it was the Kerry captain who sprinkled some stardust across Pairc Arthur Mallon during the early stages of this game.

It took 11 minutes for Clifford to announce his arrival in east Tyrone, casually side-stepping to the left before using the significant breeze at his back to curl between the sticks. A free added a minute later extended their lead to 0-3 to 0-1.

In the face of a swirling wind and sheets of diagonal rain, the Red Hands’ kick-out strategy malfunctioned, Micheal Burns and Jack Barry making hay as they constantly picked off possession around the mid-point of the half.

Sean O’Shea profited from a Morgan kick that went straight to Clifford, popping over the bar after the Fossa man’s offload, before Micheal Burns found acres of space through the middle on the quarter hour mark to fire over from range, making it 0-5 to 0-1.

A McCurry free reduced the deficit but Kerry could and should have extended their lead when Tiernan McCann was caught in possession by Barry. He played in Paul Geaney, well shackled by Rory Brennan, but his shot was saved by Morgan’s legs.

Clifford scored two more either side of a monster Morgan free into the wind, the first dispatched with typical finesse from around the 45 metre line as Kerry went in four to the good at half-time.

Having picked up where they left off in the previous weekend’s defeat to Monaghan, there wasn’t much hope among the natives as the teams ran out for the second half.

But the Red Hands produced their best patch of play so far this year, dominating the opening 10 minutes, pushing up and pressing the life out of Kerry. The net result was scores for Rory Brennan, a Conor Meyler mark and a stylish McCurry finish after impressive work from Liam Rafferty to win back possession.

Before that last score, a buzz of anticipation swept around the ground as the familiar figure of McShane walked to the line, coming in for Daniel Kerr on 40 minutes to a huge ovation.

Unlike Ciara’s brief appearance, Storm Cathal dragged on for weeks; after so much speculation over where his future lay, it must have been a huge relief to get back out on the field, chasing a round ball.

It was a huge relief for the Tyrone faithful, that’s for sure. McShane soon made his presence felt, palming down a short lofted pass from Niall Kelly into the path of Tiernan McCann, who slotted between the posts to make it 0-8 apiece.

Tyrone didn’t use him too much after that, Kerry sticking Gavin Crowley in front and Jason Foley behind, the memory still fresh of the battering they took at his hands in last summer’s All-Ireland semi-final.

The game to-ed and fro-ed thereafter, McShane landing a free before Morgan put their noses in front for the first time 52 minutes in. The loss of Peter Harte to a second yellow card in the 58th minute looked a body blow to their hopes of picking up a vital League win, even moreso when Ronan McNamee and Kerry’s Jack Barry were shown black cards as the clock wound down.

Clifford, though, evened up the score when he harshly followed Harte off the field, referee Fergal Kelly meting out the same punishment to him and Tyrone sub Ben McDonnell – even though Clifford looked to have done his best to steer clear of the incident that saw the umpires behind the goal alert the Longford whistler.

Kingdom boss Keane threw the towering Tommy Walsh into the fray to try and wreak his particular brand of havoc, and the Red Hands could have done without giving the ball straight to him not once, but twice as they eyed the finishing line.

In the end, though, it was the dead-eyed calmness of McCurry that kept the Kingdom at arm’s length, on a day he is unlikely to forget any time soon.

Tyrone: N Morgan (0-4, frees; N Kelly, R McNamee, L Rafferty; T McCann (0-1), R Brennan (0-1), K McGeary, F Burns; C Cavanagh, C Kilpatrick; P Harte, N Sludden, D McCurry (0-6, 0-3 frees, 0-1 sideline, 0-1 mark); C Meyler (0-1, mark), D Kerr. Subs: C McShane (0-1, free) for Kerr (40), K Coney for Kelly (47), B McDonnell for Kilpatrick (60), HP McGeary for Burns (68), M Cassidy for McCann (74)

Black card: R McNamee (64-74)

Yellow cards: P Harte (42, 58), K McGeary (43), F Burns (58), B McDonnell (65), M Cassidy (75)

Red card: P Harte (58)

Kerry: S Ryan; J Foley, T Morley, G O’Sullivan; P Murphy, G Crowley, G White; L Kearney, J Barry; M Burns (0-1), S O’Shea (0-6, 0-5 frees), S O’Brien; K Spillane, D Clifford (0-6, 0-2 frees, 0-1 mark), P Geaney. Subs: D Moynihan for O’Brien (42), T O’Sullivan for Spillane (45), D O’Connor for Burns (53), T Walsh for Kearney (67), T Brosnan for White (72)

Black card: J Barry (64-74)

Yellow cards: D Clifford (29, 65), P Murphy (58)

Red card: D Clifford (65)

Referee: F Kelly (Longford).

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