WHENEVER Tyrone are set to play Kerry, memories will invariably flood back of the halcyon days of the noughties. Peter Canavan signing off his career with a peach of a goal into Hill 16, Brian Dooher scoring one of the greatest points of all time in the 2008 showdown, Kerry players being hounded into submission in 2003 – we could go on and on really.
The passing of time hasn’t diminished the significance of those special victories against Kerry, but it’s fair to say that the rivalry has been turned on its head in the last ten years with the Kingdom dominating more recent fixtures against their old nemesis. Here we take a look back at the championship encounters between Tyrone and Kerry, starting with a certain match in 1986…
1986 All-Ireland Final
A last hurrah from the old guard
OH what could have been. Tyrone tore into the Kingdom with wanton disregard right from the opening whistle, and led by three points at half-time in their first ever appearance in an All-Ireland final (an ageing Kerry team, by contrast, were bidding for their seventh title in eight years). Plunkett Donaghy was lording the skies while Mickey Mallon scored four points from play in the first-half, and even better was to follow when Paudge Quinn hit the net to open up a six-point lead.
But that was as good as it got; Kevin McCabe’s missed penalty seemed to awaken something in Kerry, and they dominated the rest of the contest and eventually won out by eight points. McCabe’s penalty kick is perceived as the defining moment of the game, but lady luck didn’t shine on Tyrone as Eugene McKenna, Jon Lynch and Mickey Mallon all had to go off with injury in the second-half.
2003 All-Ireland Semi-Fiinal
“They’re like a pack of ravenous dogs”
THE words of RTE co-commentor Martin Carney during that famous clip where Kerry players were hounded by a string of Tyrone players near the Cusack Stand sideline during a 60-second period in the first-half where time itself seemed to stand still.
Tyrone brought utter chaos to this match, suffocating their opponents with a ferocious intensity that bamboozled their opponents who had been hitherto untested en route to the last four.
But it’s worth recalling that Tyrone played some sensational football as well, even without their injured skipper Peter Canavan who had to leave the field after only 15 minutes from play.
Owen Mulligan, Sean Cavanagh and Brian McGuigan played a massive contribution as they surged into a 0-9 to 0-2 lead at half-time, and while the second-half descended into a bit of a dogfight, Tyrone finished strongly with points from Clann na nGael duo Brian Dooher and Stephen O’Neill.
A momentous victory – even if the purists out there couldn’t handle Tyrone’s apparent temerity.
2005 All-Ireland Final
A performance for the ages
THIS was supposed to be redemption for Kerry, but Tyrone tore up the script as they won their second All-Ireland in three years with a performance hailed by many as one of the greatest ever in an All-Ireland final. Jack O’Connor’s Kerry started the game well, but Tyrone were steeled by their nine-game run to the final and worked their way back into proceedings after the concession of an early goal.
Then came the crucial moment as half-time approached; Philip Jordan delivered an inch-perfect cross-field pass towards Eoin Mulligan, and Mugsy held off Paul Galvin as Peter Canavan arched a brilliant run towards the square (and in doing so completely fooled his direct marker Seamus Moynihan). Then, with his ‘weaker’ foot, Canavan basically passed the ball into the net, recognising that it was the only way to beat giant Kerry net-minder Diarmuid Murphy.
Canavan scored a remarkable point in the second-half as well, while late efforts from Philip Jordan and the phenomenal Brian McGuigan ensured that Sam was heading back north – and this time, there were no complaints from Pat Spillane and Co.
2008 All-Ireland Final
Cavanagh leads the way
REMEMBER the final 15 minutes of this game? Talk about a recurring nightmare for Kerry as they failed to knock over a single point while Tyrone scored five at the other end. By the full-time whistle, Kerry had lost their way entirely, but they still had a late chance to nip into the lead only Declan O’Sullivan’s shot was saved spectacularly by Packie McConnell.
On the whole though, it was a massively deserved victory for the underdogs. Kerry’s ‘twin towers’ Tommy Walsh and Kieran Donaghy were largely nullifed by Joe and Justin McMahon, while Brian Dooher scored one of the greatest points in GAA history – gathering the ball on the Cusack Stand endline 80 yards from goal, he shipped a number of challenges before splitting the posts from a difficult angle.
It sent a serious message to Kerry – we’re not handing you the three in-a-row – and Mickey Harte’s side went on to claim the Sam Maguire for the third time in six years with Sean Cavanagh deservedly winning the man of the match award.
2012 Round Four Qualifier
IT’S no exaggeration to say that certain Kerry players celebrated this victory like they’d won the All-Ireland (remember Paul Galvin leaping around the place?). In hindsight, it was arguably a bit foolish as they crashed out of the championship a week later to Donegal, while Tyrone were hardly the force of old anyway. But it was still an itch that needed scratched, and Kerry were comfortably the better team in this qualifier victory in Killarney.
It was a tethcy contest which produced 16 yellow cards and a red for Brian McGuigan, but Kerry played most of the football and the crucial score came in the second-half when Kieran Donaghy palmed the ball to the net. Tyrone never looked like mounting a comeback, but they were in transition at the time – it was Ronan McNamee’s debut and Darren McCurry’s second outing.
Hundreds of Kerry fans stayed around to applaud Mickey Harte as he made his way to the team bus after the game, a gesture which was well-received in Tyrone.
2015 All-Ireland Semi-Final
One that got away?
YES, Kerry won this match by four points, but Tyrone were left to rue a series of missed goal chances and some debatable decisions that went against them. The Red Hands started well in the pouring rain at Croke Park, but Kerry settled with Johnny Buckley scoring four points from play in the first-half. Their full-forward line was malfunctioning, however, and Eamonn Fitzmaurice decided to ditch their direct approach at the half-time interval. It’s fair to say it worked a treat as Paul Geaney grew increasingly influential as the game wore on.
A penalty from Peter Harte in the sixtieth minute brought Tyrone back within a point, and when Mark Bradley levelled shortly afterwards, it looked like Mickey Harte’s side were going to claim an unlikely looking victory. It wasn’t to be, and perhaps Tyrone were the architect of their own downfall as they spurned a number of gilt-edged goal chances at various stages in the game.
2019 All-Ireland Semi-Final
Second half collapse
THE proverbial game of two halves, this one.
Tyrone looked in great shape at half-time, holding a four-point lead, but the wheels came off as they were outscored by 1-13 to 0-9 for the remainder of the contest.
With an eye on this weekend, it’s worth reflecting on the various match ups; Ronan McNamee did
well on David Clifford, Padraig Hampsey was assigned to Paul Geaney, while Tadhg Morley and Tom O’Sullivan marked Mattie
Donnelly and Peter Harte respectively.
Cathal McShane scored three points from play in the first-half, but Kerry finally came to life in the second-half.
The crucial score was a goal from Stephen O’Brien, who turned over the ball at one end of the pitch before joining the attack and coolly finishing to the net in the same passage of play.
Tyrone struggled to contain Kerry’s new-found aggression and couldn’t really complain about the result, even if referee Maurice Deegan didn’t do them many favours.
Hopefully it’ll be different on Saturday…