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Dublin: 16 °C Sunday 20 May, 2018


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Full-time: Tyrone 0-11 Kildare 0-16

A statement win for Kildare and Kieran McGeeney courtesy of a late flourish. We’ll have analysis of that Division 2 final later in the day.

Welcome all to Croke Park for today’s opening game as Tyrone face Kildare in the NFL Division 2 final.  Tyrone are out in the middle of an obstacle course for the warm-up, Kildare in green are merely kicking balls into the Hill 16 end.

Big day for Kieran McGeeney who has won no more than the O’Byrne Cup during in his time in charge of Kildare. On top of that, they’ve yet to beat a true heavyweight, despite making massive strides and becoming one of the best sides around. Defeat today may not matter come the championship opener against Offaly but later in the summer, when they face good opposition, you wonder would it play on their minds.

As for Tyrone, they haven’t lost since that mauling at the hands of Dublin last August. Since then they’ve reinvented themselves, won all 12 games they’ve played and it was interesting to hear Mickey Harte say he’s stopped pandering to the senior brigade in training, something we all suspected was happening. That respect was admirable but it was getting the county nowhere of late and finally we have the latest swathe of underage winners making their mark.

As for the teams, Tyrone line out as follows… J Curran; A McCrory, C Gormley, PJ Quinn; C McCarron, P Harte, D McCaul; A Cassidy, C Cavanagh; R McNabb, M Donnelly, S Cavanagh; O Mulligan, NMcKenna, S O’Neill

As for Kildare… S Connolly; P Kelly, H McGrillen, O Lyons; E Bolton, M O’Flaherty, G White; M Foley, P O’Neill; E O’Flaherty, M Conway, J Doyle; A Smith, T O’Connor, J Kavanagh. Referee is Michael Collins from Cork.

According to my phone it’s 6 degrees but feels like 0. Wind is blowing across the field as Kildare kick into the Hill 16 end for the opening half. Ball is in and we are underway.

2 mins: Tyrone 0-0 Kildare 0-1, John Doyle predictably with the opener from play as the game settles down. But remember Kildare dominated the opening period of the league opener between these two back in February and it got them nowhere that night.

5 mins: Tyrone 0-1 Kildare 0-2, Peter Harte, having a great season, picks the ball straight off the ground. Relatively strong wind now favouring Tyrone but Eoghan O’Flaherty frees from the hands to double the Kildare advantage before Owen Mulligan puts Tyrone on the board.

8 mins: Tyrone 0-2 Kildare 0-2, Just a note, Eamonn Callaghan has started in place of Gary White at wing-back but he’s getting forward early on here in a subdued game as Mulligan draws things level with a free.

10 mins: Tyrone 0-3 Kildare 0-3, Kildare back in front through a Mikey Conway free but Mark Donnelly quickly cancels that out. Lack of intensity so far but early days.

14 mins: Tyrone 0-4 Kildare 0-3, Neither side committing too many forward meaning defences on top in a shapeless game. Even Owen Mulligan back making a challenge there as Tyrone counter and Niall McKenna puts them ahead for the first time.

20 mins: Tyrone 0-4 Kildare 0-4, It’s ‘nice’ football but no edge to the game. Plenty of passing, very few hard challenges and some wayward shooting, although a swirling wind is making it difficult. Tomas O’Connor and PJ Quinn in an interesting battle on the edge of the Tyrone square. O’Connor wins that ball, sets up James Kavanagh and it’s level. Now Conor Gormley gone back in on O’Connor in a key match-up as Kildare’s strategy is the by-pass the Tyrone blanket defence by hitting it in long and early.

23 mins: Tyrone 0-5 Kildare 0-4, Mark Donnelly with his second as the tit-for-tat continues. Not championship intensity. Incident free bar the scoring although Tyrone the half-forward line does look lively in comparison to that line of the opposition.

28 mins: Tyrone 0-5 Kildare 0-5, Again it’s O’Connor winning ball and a free in front of the posts. Conway clips it over but this game could well hinge on the Kildare full-forward as he’s doing damage so far. Has the pace on Gormley and a good set of hands.

30 mins: Tyrone 0-5 Kildare 0-7, Conway hauled down by Cathal McCarron and finishes off another free in front of posts. The O’Connor danger has seen Kildare half-forwards find a bit more space in the last couple of minutes as James Kavanagh drops deeper leaving a two-man full-forward line for Kildare. There’s more as Kildare go back to route one next, continuing to vary the ball in. O’Connor scoops a long ball over Donnelly and then the keeper although Aidan McCrory makes sure it’s a point rather than a goal for Kildare.

Lengthy stoppage here as Aidan McCrory has stayed down after saving that goal. The stretcher is on and he’s surrounded by several medics and has been for a number of minutes. They haven’t moved him from the goalmouth yet but hopefully it’s precautionary.

Finally McCrory is taken from the field on a stretcher and Joe McMahon replaces him.

Back underway and we’ll have six minutes of injury-time, so the first half will last 48 minutes in total. An aside, Sean Cavanagh has been anonymous. He has never been the same player since 2009.

Half-time: Tyrone 0-6 Kildare 0-7, Stephen O’Neill points from a free and then shoots just wide from eight yards when he might have goaled.

Kildare have been the better team but this is very like when the two met in Croke Park in February. They could and maybe should have been further ahead that night and it’s the same story here, especially after taking over in the second quarter. But a couple of months back, a different Tyrone returned after the break and dominated although if they are to do so now, it’ll be into a stiff, diagonal, breeze.

Second half underway and we didn’t even have time to defrost. Kildare by one at the minute.

37 minutes:  Tyrone 0-7 Kildare 0-7, Not for long thanks to a Mulligan free.

58 mins: Tyrone 0-10 Kildare 0-10, We are back, huge wind led to technical meltdown there as all internet connections were lost. Quick recap on what you missed. Mulligan, O’Neill and Sean Cavanagh scored for Tyrone while substitute Padraig Fogarty who came on for Alan Smith, Eoghan O’Flaherty and Mikey Conway pointed for Kildare. All square down the stretch.

61 mins: Tyrone 0-10 Kildare 0-12, That’s a great score from substitute Fogarty, 35 yards out and running away from goal. Kildare picking up the pace while Tyrone defend with 13, but it matters little as Mikey Conway evades a challenge and kicks a fine point.

63 mins: Tyrone 0-10 Kildare 0-13, It’s all Kildare. If the opposition defend in numbers, kick from distance. Huge score from Eamonn Callaghan from outside of 45. It’s led to increased work rate at the back from the leaders too as they take over.

65 mins: Tyrone 0-10 Kildare 0-15, That should be that and what a way to finish it. Johnny Doyle swings over a sideline ball as Kildare pick up all the scraps in the middle.

69 mins: Tyrone 0-10 Kildare 0-16, That is that. Fogarty only only came on 20 minutes ago and he’s kicked his third. And now he wins a free 25 from goal. Kildare finish with a flourish as Eoghan O’Flahery taps over that free and celebrates.

Full-time: Tyrone 0-11 Kildare 0-16, Stephen O’Neill with a late free but it makes no difference. Big win for Kildare and Kieran McGeeney.

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