Tyrone conclude National League on another winning note.

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Tyrone concluded their National Football League campaign with a flourish, extending a winning run with a five points victory over Kerry at Healy Park.


The tie meant little in terms of league standings to either side, who had both already secured their Division One status, but this was a morale-boosting result for the Red Hands ahead of their Ulster Championship opener against Monaghan.

Declan McClure grabbed the only goal of the game late on as the home side came from behind to score a comfortable success over their fierce rivals from the Kingdom.

Manager Mickey Harte was delighted with the manner in which his team turned the corner after a dismal start to the league, losing three of the first four games, before going on a winning run that saw them climb the Division One table.

"I suppose it was a bit of role-reversal from last year when we started strong and finished poorly," he said.

"I suppose that's not a bad thing to be able to turn it around. After four games we only had two points and it was dicey looking.

"The Donegal win was so important, Mayo was excellent and I suppose a lot of people were telling us it was a long time since we beat Kerry and I suppose it is nice to put the record straight any day of the week. I am very pleased with the outcome.

"It's good to be winning the last three games. There was perhaps nothing at stake but league points, but I think there is always something at stake when you are playing at this level - you have to believe there is something at stake. I don't think Kerry came up to lose, I think they wanted to win and that's really pleasing for us as a county."

Tyrone's solid defensive strategy remains in place, but they look more dangerous going forward, as tweaks to the system begin to have telling effects.

Another decent score-line was racked up at Healy Park as they stormed to a five points win over the Kingdom.

"That's the name of the game, we have to defend stoutly and attack at pace and have the runners coming off the shoulders. This thing that you have to have x amount of forwards up the field at any one time, it is a bit dated and that's the truth.

"It's not about how many you have up at all times, it's about how many you have up when you need them. And I think we are capable of getting players up in numbers and get the scores we are getting, to take the transition from defence to attack with accuracy and precision."

Tyrone have scored 4-43 in their last three games, and Harte is pleased with the return as they prepare to defend the Ulster Championship title.

"When I reflect on last year, I believe we were getting plenty of scores, particularly when the summertime came. We were getting lots of high scores and not conceding a lot.

"That was the name of the game and I suppose because one particular game didn't turn out well for us in any shape or form, that shaped our whole season. I feel that was unfair and I have stated that many times.

"Just because we have done well in these three games doesn't mean that anything is perfect, that we are a finished product. It means we are a work in progress.

We won't be sitting back and thinking we are something wonderful." An injury to Colm Cavanagh could rule the Moy man out of action for up to six weeks, affecting his preparation for the Ulster Championship opener against Monaghan, but otherwise, there are no serious injuries, and the squad is getting stronger with the development of exciting young players.

"Absolutely, there are a number of players for a variety of reasons not fit to be included there today; Colm Cavanagh, Niall Sludden, Hugh Pat (McGeary), other players that were out of it, Mark Bradley carrying a bit of an injury.

We didn't want to use Connor McAliskey but we felt we had to do so at that sta ge." The home side didn't take the lead until first half stoppage time, but a solid second half display saw them score a morale-boosting pre-championship success over their fierce rivals.

Declan McClure's late goal sealed a closely fought encounter, but defeat will not cause too many sleepless nights in the Kingdom, who kept a number of their key players in reserve.

But it was an encouraging result for the Red Hands, who have managed to put a couple of positive results together at Healy Park, the venue for their Ulster SFC opener against Monaghan on May 20.

In front of a crowd of 6,115, Kerry wing back Cormac Coffey landed a long range effort early on, and they went back in front through Killian Spillane, after Division One's top scorer Lee Brennan had got the Red Hands off the mark.

Mattie Donnelly, scorer of four fine points from play against Mayo a week earlier, spent most of the opening half inside his own half as the hone side set up defensively, often channelling 14 players back to within their own 45 metre line.

Kerry moved the ball with fluency, using their traditional foot-passing game to effect, and their finishing was clinical as they moved into a 0-5 to 0-2 lead by the 15th minute, with Daithi Casey and Spillane, from a free, thumping over long range efforts.

As Tyrone built from deep, Jason Foley and Mark Griffin defended solidly, holding the Red Hands scoreless for 12 minutes, before Brennan slotted over a free.

Kerry's movement caused significant problems to a back-tracking Tyrone rearguard, and they crafted a delightful score, with Kevin McCarthy's purposeful run sending Stephen O'Brien in for a tidy finish.

Johnny Buckley followed up with another long range effort, and a Michael Burns score on the half-hour had them 0-9 to 0-6 ahead.

But in the closing stages of the half, Tyrone committed more men to the attack, with Donnelly, Peter Harte, Rory Brennan and Ronan McNabb making support runs.

They kicked five of the last six points, with Donnelly curling over a gem, and Cathal McShane stepping round Griffin to blaze over the bar when he could well have netted.

Goalkeeper Morgan converted a 45 metre free, and Lee Brennan's stoppage time free gave them the lead for the first time and a 0-10 to 0-9 interval lead.

Kerry came out for the second half with intent, with Spillane and Buckley adding to their tallies, but with McShane and Brennan also continuing to find the target, the Munster men were unable to get their noses back in front.

They went level three times in the opening ten minutes of the second half, but Brennan's accuracy from placed balls favoured Tyrone's cause, with Frank Burns further enhancing his growing reputation with an eye-catching display at the back.

Peter Harte emerged as a major figure following a quiet opening half, setting up the scores that kept his side in front, and in the 56th minute, Tadhg Morley dragged down substitute Conor Meyler for a penalty, which Ronan O'Neill kicked wide.

But the Ulster champions did hit the net in the 58th minute when Harte and McShane combined for midfielder McClure to palm home.

Tyrone scorers: Declan McClure 1-1, Lee Brennan 0-5 (4 frees), Cathal McShane, Ronan O'Neill (3 frees) 0-3 each, Conal McCann, Mattie Donnelly, Kieran McGeary, Niall Morgan (free) 0-1 each.

Kerry scorers: Killian Spillane 0-5 (5 frees), Johnny Buckley, Stephen O'Brien 0-2 each, Daithi Casey, Micheal Burns, Michael Geaney, Cormac Coffey, Matthew Flaherty 0-1 each.

Tyrone: Niall Morgan; Cathal McCarron, Ronan McNamee, Aidan McCrory; Ronan McNabb, Frank Burns, Rory Brennan; Declan McClure, Cathal McShane; Mattie Donnelly, Peter Harte, Conall McCann, Kieran McGeary, Lee Brennan, Ronan O'Neill.

Subs: David Mulgrew for McGeary, Conor Meyler for McCann, Connor McAliskey for Meyler (61), Michael McKernan for McCrory, Brendan Burns for F Burns.

Kerry: Brian Kelly; Brian O Beaglaoich, Jason Foley, Tom O'Sullivan; Cormac Coffey, Mark Griffin, Michael Geaney; Jack Barry, David Moran; Micheal Burns, Daithi Casey, Kevin McCarthy; Killian Spillane, Johnny Buckley, Stephen O'Brien.

Subs: Eanna O Conchuir for Burns, Tadhg Morley for Geaney, Brendan O'Sullivan for Barry, Matthew Flaherty for Buckley, Greg Horan for Moran.


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