Last gasp Tyrone boost survival hopes

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Last gasp Tyrone boost survival hopes thumbnailThe Tyrone team that beat Kildare

LAST gasp Tyrone lifted themselves off the bottom of the National Football League Division One table as Mattie Donnelly's late winner denied Kildare.


The Red Hand captain steered over a magnificent point deep into stoppage time to secure both points and ease relegation worries.

It was a tense encounter at Newbridge between two teams desperate to get off the mark following two defeats, and just when it looked like the points would be shared, the Ulster champions swooped for a dramatic success.

"It's challenging, that's for sure, for anyone that has a weak heart," said Tyrone manager Mickey Harte.

"The game went on as it began, the only time anyone had any fresh air was when they went three or four one up at the start. After that it was point for point right up to half time.

"I suppose our ambition was to win both halves, that looked unlikely in the first half. We were in a point ahead and we knew that we still in a fierce battle.

"You could say the elements were in your favour in the second half but the elements only do so much, they move the ball up the field but they don't put the ball over the bar."

Harte felt a degree of sympathy for a fully committed Kildare side that had nothing to show for immense effort at the end of it all.

"I think it was a good game of football, it's sad for anybody to have to lose that game.

"Kildare deserved something out of it, I felt we deserved something out of it, and probably luck was on our side to help us get the two points today."

And the Red Hand boss was in no doubt about the importance of finally getting that first league win.

"It kind of speaks for itself. If you didn't win today you're three and nought - not a great place to be.

"Three and one still doesn't leave you out of the woods by any means but at least there's a wee bit of optimism there. You've the possibility to stay away from the very bottom.

"That last point of Mattie Donnelly's was priceless in terms of league points.

"It was significant in that it was probably easier to kick the ball from distance.

"Again as I say, it doesn't put it over the bar for you, you have to play with composure to you have to play with quality regardless of the elements. None of us really took the best out of the elements at our backs.

Lee Brennan's well taken first half goal was the key launch pad for Tyrone's renewed challenge following a shaky start.

"That was the time that we really saved the day for ourselves. It didn't look good at four-nil and five-one.

"They were flying and the first three shots they took went over the bar and the first three we took went wide.

"It was déjà vu from last week (v Dublin), we were missing too many shots.

"We did settle down, we got a hold of the game again and the goal that Lee Brennan got was a vital score.

"In a game of point for point, three points is a big lead. The goal wiped that out and kept us in contention."

Relegation fears have been eased somewhat, but Tyrone still face a string of tough games in the weeks ahead.

"It's a battle all the way and you look at the teams you have to play, you can't look ahead and say 'these are easy games.'

"Monaghan, Donegal, Mayo and Kerry, if we don't gets points on the board now the ones coming up aren't any easier," said Harte.

"It gives us that bit of confidence to believe that we can pick up a couple of points. Picking up points, we haven't done (that) for a long time.

"To get this today is very, very vital for us."

Harte was pleased with his side's attacking return, but concerned at the concession of 18 scores.

"It's a big score to put up but also a big score to ship. We'd love to put up that score and concede less.

"It was probably more open than we would have liked to have been.

"I'm sure they'd say the same thing, they'd have liked it a bit tighter at the back too.

"They're a decent side, they've good footballers, they've a great fight in them. That's bad luck on them to lose two weeks in a row by one point.

"They could be sitting on four points now just as well as none, so hard luck on them."

Kevin Feely opened the scoring inside the first minute, converting a free won by Daniel Flynn, and the lead was doubled by Fergal Conway, who got his shot away accurately despite pressure from two defenders.

The home side went three clear in the seventh minute when Ben McCormack landed a point, and Conway made it four points to nil.

Tyrone were pushing men forward in a positive approach, but a handful of wides frustrated their efforts, until Niall Sludden slotted over their opening point in the 13th minute, finishing off a move involving Tiernan McCann and Conor Meyler.

And they enjoyed a productive spell towards the end of the opening quarter, Lee Brennan slotting over a couple of frees, with McCann also finding the target as they narrowed the gap to a point.

Kildare regained the upper hand, with Feely, from a free, goalkeeper Mark Donnellan, from a '45, and Paul Cribbin restoring their four points advantage.

Sludden was extremely effective in tracing back and probing for openings in the Kildare defence, and he was also supremely accurate in his finishing, hitting his second score, before the visitors struck for a goal in the 28th minute.

Cathal McShane thumped a dangerous ball towards the far post, where Lee Brennan collected, and picked his spot in the bottom corner, beating Donnellan with an angled finish.

Suddenly the sides were level, and while Kildare briefly regained the lead through Feely, but with McNulty working hard around the middle, the Red Hands finished the half with a flourish, and points from goalkeeper Niall Morgan, from a '45, McAliskey and Sludden sent them in with a 1-8 to 0-10 interval lead.

Niall Kelly had the sides level soon after the resumption, to set the tone for a helter-skelter second half.

The scores flowed at both ends, with the excellent Feely keeping the home side very much in touch with his free-kicking, off both feet.

But Tyrone, now playing with wind advantage, were playing very much on the front foot, with Sludden, Tiernan McCann, Donnelly and Conor Meyler driving them forward, and Hugh Pat McGeary, Padraig Hampsey and Cathal McCarron solid at the back.

Cathal McShane, Lee Brennan, McNulty, with a superb effort, substitute Darren McCurry and Donnelly were all on target, and McShane had them a point in front going into the final five minutes.

The pressure got to Feely as he missed a straightforward free late on, with 'keeper Donnellan also failing to find the target from a placed ball.

Feely did bring his side level in the 73rd minute, but in the sixth minute of added time, skipper Donnelly rose to the occasion with a magnificent winner.

Kildare: Mark Donnellan (0-1); Peter Kelly (0-1), David Hyland, Mick O'Grady; Johnny Byrne, Eoin Doyle, Cian O'Donoghue (0-1); Kevin Feely (0-9), Tommy Moolick; Fergal Conway (0-2), Niall Kelly (0-1), Paul Cribbin (0-1); Ben McCormack (0-1), Daniel Flynn (0-1), Paddy Brophy.

Subs: Jimmy Hyland for McCormack, Luke Flynn for Moolick, Chris Healy for N Kelly, Keith Cribbin for Conway, Casthal McNally for Brophy

Tyrone: Niall Morgan (0-1); Hugh Pat McGeary; Padraig Hampsey, Cathal McCarron; Tiernan McCann (0-1), Rory Brennan, Ciaran McLaughlin; Mattie Donnelly (0-2), Padraig McNulty (0-1); Conor Meyler, Niall Sludden (0-3), Peter Harte; Lee Brennan (1-3), Cathal McShane (0-2), Connor McAliskey (0-2).

Subs: Michael McKernan for McLaughlin, Darren McCurry (0-1) for R Brennan, Conall McCann for L Brennan, Mark Bradley for McAliskey, Ronan McNamee for McNulty


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