GAA: Last-gasp score lands Red Hands victory over Kildare at Newbridge

Tyrone's Emmett McKenna strikes the ball into the back of the Kildare nets in the first half. INTT1014-708DCA
Tyrone's Emmett McKenna strikes the ball into the back of the Kildare nets in the first half. INTT1014-708DCA
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Tyrone are still unbeaten in division one but not too many in the 4500 crowd could tell you how that is the case after a classic smash and grab in Newbridge yesterday.

By their own admission the Red Hands were second best for most of the game with Kildare but the old adage that a game is never over until the final whistle was never truer.

With less then thirty seconds to play Kildare centre half forward Eoghan O’Flaherty floated over a thirty five metre free to leave five between the sides and it appeared that was that.

The hosts had got out of the traps quickly with the opening seven points of the game and while Tyrone had reduced the deficit to the minimum at the break a 39th minute goal from Tomas O’Connor left the Lily Whites in control again.

Each time Tyrone got close the home side had the knack of scoring again and despite their best efforts the visitors looked like they were going to suffer their first defeat of the season.

That’s when the game was turned spectacularly on its head as first of all Ronan O’Neill goaled before substitute Mark Donnelly also found the net moments later in the last attack of the game.

It was the only time that Tyrone had their noses in front all afternoon but that was the only time that mattered and it leaves last season’s beaten league finalists well on course for the knockout stages this year again.

This was certainly not a good display from Tyrone but, at the end of the day, it’s all about getting results and this will set them up nicely for next weekend’s long haul to Killarney to take on Kerry.

Within ten minutes they had seven points on the board as hey confidently took the game to a shell shocked Tyrone side who didn’t seem to be able to cope with the pace of their opponents.

Eoghan O’Flaherty kicked three points with Paddy Brophy, Darroch Mulhall and Cathal McNally also on target while full forward Tomas O’Connor went close to grabbing a goal.

Mattie Donnelly opened Tyrone’s account after a dozen minutes and in the next attack the visitors almost grabbed a goal when Ronan O’Neill’s blistering shot clipped the bar on its way over.

Moments later Tyrone keeper Niall Morgan was called onto action at the other end of the field to make a superb save to deny O’Connor.

Corner back Mick O’Grady and Sean Hurley both tagged on points for the hosts as they moved 0-9 to 0-2 in front after sixteen minutes.

Tyrone then hit back in style with Conor McAliskey, Morgan and Darren McCurry hitting three points in a row. The Red Hands were then dealt a blow when Peter Harte was blacked carded, Ronan McNamee coming on in his place with O’Flaherty converting the resulting free.

In the twenty ninth minute Tyrone were right back in the game when a long clearance from Morgan saw McCurry gain possession before fisting the ball to Emmett McKenna who produced a daisy cutter of a finish to the bottom left hand corner of the net past keeper Shane Connolly.

Mattie Donnelly and Brophy traded points before O’Neill had the final say of the half with a beauty from the right wing to leave it 0-13 to 1-9 at the break.

Tyrone were dealt a sucker punch only four minutes into the second half when O’Connor got on the end of a long delivery in from O’Flaherty to flick to the net past Morgan.

Mulhall tagged on a point but back came Tyrone through Mattie Donnelly, Mark Donnelly, McKenna and a superb Sean Cavanagh effort to trim the margin to the minimum.

Once again the home side sensed the danger and points from Mulhall, O’Flaherty, Brophy and Sean Hurley put them five in front with only eight minutes left to play.

Ronan O’Neill converted a couple of frees but either side of that defender Paul Cribbin and O’Flaherty both registered for Kildare.

Tyrone had still something left in the tank and on the tenth anniversary of the late Cormac McAnallen the Eglish clubman would have been proud of the fighting spirit shown by his county.

Cavanagh and Darren McCurry combined for O’Neill to finish in style but even at that stage it looked like a consolation score.

Moments later the comeback was complete when Mattie Donnelly, who looked to have over carried the ball, saw his shot half black with Kyle Coney getting possession before supplying the pass for Mark Donnelly to win the game in the most dramatic of circumstances.

The get out of jail card was certainly used in this match. But it’s another two points on the board and that is what counts.