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Tommy Walsh's decisive impact, the Kerry comeback and where did it go wrong for Tyrone?

5 talking points after Kerry’s power-packed second-half saw off Tyrone in the All-Ireland semi-final.

1. Kerry’s second-half revival

IT WASN’T AS emphatic as Dublin’s turnaround yesterday, but the manner of Kerry’s response after half-time was highly impressive. Trailing Tyrone by four, the Kingdom looked worryingly devoid of energy and ideas up front.

Paul Geaney and David Clifford celebrate a late score Paul Geaney and David Clifford celebrate a late score. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The majority of their attacks came down the middle, which was meat and drink to Mickey Harte’s side. Of their 20 first-half attacks, Kerry registered five scores and just two from play.

Kerry edged themselves back into the game through a series of frees and pressed up high on Niall Morgan’s restarts. They started winning the battles in the middle third and cut out the supply of ball into dangerman Cathal McShane. Between the 54th and 57th minute, Kerry scored 1-3 without reply to go from two behind to four points up. 

Similarly yesterday, Dublin scored 2-6 without reply in the 12 minutes after half-time to virtually finish the game as a contest. Both Kerry and Dublin sensed blood, went for the jugular and maximised their momentum on the scoreboard.

The Munster champions had the smarts and experience to win a few important frees near the end and were happy to play keep-ball, greatly frustrating Tyrone in the finale.

2. Tommy Walsh impact

Tommy Walsh showed flashes of class during the league but he’s been largely kept in reserve during the championship. In the 50th minute, Kerry were a point behind when Walsh was introduced for Jason Foley. 

Kerry rejigged their team around and placed the former Sydney Swans player on the edge of the square. He gave the pass for scores from David Moran and David Clifford, before expertly dragging his man out of the square to leave the space for Stephen O’Brien’s crucial goal in the 56th minute. 

Walsh made some hard runs to win a few vital balls and was fouled for a free under the Hogan Stand with time running out. Even when the game-time wasn’t coming his way, he kept plugging away and got his reward today.  

3. What went wrong for Tyrone?

This was Tyrone’s ninth All-Ireland semi-final to reach under Harte and their fifth defeat at this stage. He’ll be desperately disappointed with their second-half showing after they’d built up an early head of steam. 

Tyrone will find it hard to shake the feeling they left this one behind them.

Following their league win over Dublin, the Red Hand were optimistic they’d found a system and the personnel to take down Jim Gavin’s team. But they won’t get the opportunity for another crack at the champions following a second-half when they lost all creativity in their attack.

Tyrone scored just one point from play – Connor McAliskey’s 53rd-minute effort – between half-time and the 69th minute. Given their lack of a scoring punch it begs the question, should Harte have tried harder to accommodate talented forwards Lee Brennan, Ronan O’Neill and Mark Bradley this year? 

Cathal McShane dejected after the game Cathal McShane leaves the field after the game. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

4. Match-ups

Early on it looked like Tyrone had nailed most of their match-ups, but as the game wore on it was Kerry who were winning the majority of the individual battles. Ronan McNamee won an early ball off Clifford and held him to a point in the opening 35 minutes, while Padraig Hampsey had Geaney under control.

Man-of-the-match O’Brien endured a relatively quiet start on Kieran McGeary, before he took him to the cleaners in the third quarter to such an extent that his marker received the curly finger immediately after the game’s only goal.

Keane certainly won the sideline contest. Peter Harte had a forgettable afternoon being tagged by Tom O’Sullivan, Tadhg Morley did reasonably well on Mattie Donnelly and restricted him to a brace before he was pushed back onto McShane. 

Jack Sherwood was an effective half-time substitution and he clipped over a good point. Walsh had a major impact, as did Geaney with his three-point haul, goal assist and all-round link-up play. Clifford finished with 0-5 while O’Shea scored six of his eight shots at the posts.

Stephen O'Brien celebrates scoring his sides first goal Stephen O'Brien celebrates scoring his goal. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

5. Kerry have forwards to hurt Dublin

Given the nature of Dublin’s clinical dismissal of Mayo, Kerry will need to up things another level or two in the final. It took a half-time grilling from Keane before they started showing the levels of aggression required at this level. 

On the plus side, their forward line is moving nicely. Dublin’s style of play means they give up plenty of scoring chances in defence. Clifford, Geaney, O’Brien – if he’s cleared to play – and O’Shea will ask plenty of questions of the Dublin rearguard.

Gavin White is built to mark Jack McCaffrey, while O’Brien will be tasked with running at John Small from early on to put him in card trouble.

Kerry enjoyed an 82% scoring efficiency after the break and they’ll need to remain in that ballpark to stand a chance of crushing Dublin’s five-in-a-row dreams. Walsh is now a real option and he may be a late addition to the starting team if Kerry want to go after the Dublin full-back line like they did in their league victory in February.

If James O’Donoghue can recover from a hamstring problem sufficiently to take his place on the bench, it would give Kerry a much-needed extra option for the final quarter when the Dubs tend to run riot. 

A mouth-watering final awaits and while Dublin are still strong favourites, it’s by no means a forgone conclusion. 

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien  / reports from Croke Park

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