Category: Archive

Tyrone take Sam Maguire

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

In the 1960s, it was Down who changed the way Gaelic football was played by taking Kerry’s catch-and-kick game and turning it on its head. This time, Tyrone showed for the third time in five years that they have it in them to spook what just about everybody had anointed before Sunday as the team of the decade.
Brian McGuigan said afterwards that that tag belongs to Tyrone now but we probably shouldn’t be so quick to pronounce on it. The decade still has a year to go, don’t forget. Kerry will be back because that’s what Kerry do and what they are. They’ve played in seven of the nine finals since the turn of the century and as early as Monday they were declared favorites in almost all books to come back and win their fifth title of the decade next year. But for now at least we can definitively say that they have the whip hand over every team in the country except Tyrone.
Three titles in six years nails them down as a team for the ages and puts Mickey Harte up as a candidate for a managerial Mount Rushmore. They beat Kerry here through a combination of honesty, work-rate and real class in a final that contained the best quality since 2005, not-at-all coincidentally the last time these two met in a decider. Sean Cavanagh turned in another stellar display at full-forward to make monkeys out of all of us who spent the middle of the summer shaking our heads and opining that he should never have been moved from midfield.
And just to underline Harte’s insistence on the numbers on players’ back meaning nothing once the whistle goes, Joe McMahon switched from wing-forward to full back at throw-in and there, along with Conor Gormley and his brother Justin, he negated the threat of Kieran Donaghy, Tommy Walsh and Colm Cooper that had so blossomed all summer. It’s hard to pick a follower of football that doesn’t owe Harte at least a small apology now.
“He is a very, very capable player,” said Harte when asked about Cavanagh’s year at full-forward. “We got much grief during the year for taking him out of midfield from all sorts of experts who knew an awful lot but maybe not as much as the rest of us. Sean Cavanagh, it wasn’t just about himself this year, but his team. Ideally, though he would have liked to have played in midfield this year, the team came first and that was our secret – men moved to places for the good of the team. It was a revelation for him to get out at midfield and show the whole repertoire of skills that he has. We certainly have not seen the end of Sean Cavanagh. He will get better. I see him becoming a more complete footballer every year he plays.”
The delight of the Tyrone payers and management was tempered a little because a small pall of grief hang over the weekend too. Their first-choice goalkeeper John Devine suffered the death of his father on Saturday and couldn’t take his place on the day. That his replacement Pascal McConell proved a key influence, pulling off two excellent saves from Walsh and Declan O’Sullivan, only highlighted Devine’s absence even more and he was at the forefront of their thoughts afterwards.
“Our players are well used to misfortune,” said Harte who has, in the past, bowed his head at the funerals of two of his players. “John came out to meet all the players on the panel. They all expressed condolences; it was something they needed to do. He was happy with the way the players approached it. They were able to detach themselves from that and focus on the game again. Their thoughts and prayers were with him. He was remembered at the Mass this morning and that was the best we could do. We couldn’t guarantee a win for John Devine today. The only thing we could guarantee that our players would do their level best.”
The game itself was a small classic. Tyrone got in about Kerry and never gave them a minute’s peace. The lead changed hands nine times and it wasn’t until Tommy McGuigan scrambled in a goal less than a minute into the second half that either side had more than a one-point lead. Kerry hauled themselves back into matters and even went ahead with 15 to go but when the game was there to be won, it was Tyrone who did the winning.
The key to Tyrone’s win was the fact that they stopped Kerry being able to rain balls in on top of Walsh and Donaghy with any comfort. Nothing went for free around the middle of the pitch and the Kerry half-forwards had no room to maneuver in there. If ever a game was calling out for the presence and heart of Paul Galvin to get in amongst those skirmishes and secure ball, this was it. But having been out of the game with suspension for three months, he didn’t appear here until 12 minutes from the end. By then, Kerry were looking demoralized on the pitch, albeit that they were still level on the scoreboard. But they got their last point in the 55th minute, whereas Tyrone raised five white flags between that and the final whistle.
“I thought we were well in it until the goal at the start of the second-half, which will be the big talking point,” said Kerry wing-back Tom_s

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