– Niall Kelly reports from Croke Park
KERRY SURVIVED AN almighty test from Tyrone to book their place in the All-Ireland football final.
Peter Harte’s penalty with 10 minutes to play to set up a grandstand finish in an enthralling encounter.
But the champions finished with the last four scores to ensure that they will defend their crown against either Dublin or Mayo on 20 September.
Referee Maurice Deegan was to the fore in game which saw disputed penalty calls as well as black cards controversy with both full-backs, Marc O Sé and Ronan McNamee, shown the line.
There was little to choose between the sides after an absorbing first half that produced 15 scores in slippery conditions.
The rain that sheeted down on Jones’ Road did Kerry’s kicking game no favours and before Kieran Donaghy pointed to give them an 0-8 to 0-7 lead in the third additional minute of the first half, their full-forward line had been held scoreless from play.
There was nothing particularly subtle or surprising about Tyrone’s approach. They formed a barricade that forced Kerry to take the long way round and pressed with intensity. Too many times, Kerry tried to take an extra second on the ball and were hassled into turnovers.
Both sides were happy too to allow the other cheap possession through short uncontested kick-outs. When Kerry pushed up in the second half and forced Niall Morgan to kick long, it paid handsome dividends.
Donaghy’s struggles in that first half mirrored Kerry’s overall play. Justin McMahon reprised the disruptive role he used to such good effect against Michael Murphy earlier in the championship with similar results. Donaghy won very little clean ball and on the rare occasion when gave his guard the slip, there were other white jerseys on hand to crowd him out.
His point was the last action of a frustrating afternoon as he was replaced by Paul Geaney. The Dingle man injected new life into a full-forward line that had managed just one point from play in that first half. He scored three points in a close-fought second half while Colm Cooper and James O’Donoghue each added two more.
Tyrone will rue the two great goal chances that went a-begging early in that second half. Mark Bradley was denied by fine save from Brendan Kealy who shot out his right arm to make the stop.
A few moments later, Tiernan McCann fizzed a snapshot from 13 yards just wide of the post.
Had either of those gone in, or had Connor McAliskey showed a bit more composure when he blazed over for a point in the 26th minute, the contest’s fine margins might have tilted in Tyrone’s favour.
Three missed frees in the second half — two of which came from goalkeeper Morgan — did not help their cause either.
They will have reason to feel aggrieved by the black card for McNamee, which looked to be more of a yellow card offence.
And the sense of injustice was doubled a few minutes later when Shane Enright escaped with yellow for a more obvious pull-down on Harte.
They still trailed by four when substitute Barry Tierney was dragged down in front of the Kerry goal. Harte coolly dispatched his penalty in front of the Davin Stand before Bradley swung over a fine leveller.
Anthony Maher found himself in space to edge Kerry back into the lead before Deegan found himself at the centre of controversy once more.
He ruled that McNulty had dived following a tussle with Aidan O’Mahony and booked the Tyrone forward and awarded a free out.
It was to be their last real chance. Geaney swung over a fine score and then added another free when Ronan McNabb thundered through Cooper after the ball had been played, before Barry John Keane added the finishing touches in additional time.
Scorers for Kerry: James O’Donoghue (2f, 1 45) 0-4, Johnny Buckley, Paul Geaney (1f) 0-3 each, Stephen O’Brien, Colm Cooper (1f) 0-2 each, Kieran Donaghy, Donnchadh Walsh, Anthony Maher, Barry John Keane 0-1 each.
Scorers for Tyrone: Peter Harte (pen) 1-0, Darren McCurry 0-3 (1f), Connor McAliskey, Mark Bradley 0-2 each, Ronan McNabb, Niall Morgan (1f), Mattie Donnelly, Colm Cavanagh 0-1 each.
1. Brendan Kealy (Kilcummin)
2. Paul Murphy (Rathmore)
3. Marc Ó Sé (An Ghaeltacht)
4. Shane Enright (Tarbert)
5. Jonathan Lyne (Killarney Legion)
6. Peter Crowley (Laune Rangers)
7. Killian Young (Renard)
8. David Moran (Kerins O’Rahilly’s)
9. Anthony Maher (Duagh)
10. Stephen O’Brien (Kenmare)
11. Johnny Buckley (Dr Crokes)
12. Donnchadh Walsh (Cromane)
13. Colm Cooper (Dr Crokes)
14. Kieran Donaghy (capt, Austin Stacks)
15. James O’Donoghue (Killarney Legion)
22. Fionn Fitzgerald for O Se (bc, 16)
19. Paul Geaney for Donaghy (HT)
18. Bryan Sheehan for Moran (55)
21. Darran O’Sullivan for O’Brien (60)
17. Aidan O’Mahony for Crowley (62)
20. Barry John Keane for Walsh (64)
1. Niall Morgan (Edendork)
2. Aidan McCrory (Errigal Ciarán)
3. Ronan McNamee (Aghyaran)
4.Cathal McCarron (Dromore)
5. Ronan McNabb (Dromore)
6. Justin McMahon (Omagh)
7. Peter Harte (Errigal Ciarán)
8. Colm Cavanagh (Moy)
9. Mattie Donnelly (Trillick)
10. Tiernan McCann (Killyclogher)
11. Mark Bradley (Killyclogher)
12. Conor Meyler (Omagh)
13. Darren McCurry (Edendork)
14. Sean Cavanagh (capt, Moy)
15. Connor McAliskey (Clonoe)
24. Padraig McNulty for Meyler (inj, 47)
19. Conor Clarke for McNamee (bc, 55)
26. Barry Tierney for McCrory (55)
25. Ronan O’Neill for McCurry (65)