Red Hands show mettle to overcome Kildare

GAA Football All Ireland Senior Championship Round 3, Newbridge, Co. Kildare 20/7/2013'Kildare vs Tyrone'Emmet Bolton of Kildare with Conor Gormley and Cathal McCarron of Tyrone'Mandatory Credit �INPHO/Donall Farmer
GAA Football All Ireland Senior Championship Round 3, Newbridge, Co. Kildare 20/7/2013'Kildare vs Tyrone'Emmet Bolton of Kildare with Conor Gormley and Cathal McCarron of Tyrone'Mandatory Credit �INPHO/Donall Farmer

Tyrone survived a second half comeback by gritty Kildare in Newbridge on Saturday night, to advance into the last twelve of the All-Ireland series.

The Red Hands showed commendable composure and mettle to outlast their Leinster opponents in the intimidating surrounds of St Conleths Park before a capacity crowd.

Trailing by five at the break, the Lilywhites got themselves back on terms midway through the second period - but the Tyrone troops responded brilliantly to win what was at times a fantastic, if rather strange, championship match.

Some excellent play at the back by Conor Clarke and Conor Gormley gave the likes of Sean Cavanagh and Mark Donnelly the platform to run at the Kildare defence.

Donnelly, in particular, caused his opponents constant problems, such a handful was he.

Kildare began smartly, with a point in the first twenty seconds John Doyle - in his 66th consecutive championshi;p outing - nipping past Aidan McCrory and firing over from 35 metres.

The Red Hands responded well, however, and registered their first point in the fourth minute, Darren McCurry taking advantage of a foul on Stephen O’Neill to kick his side back on terms.

This wouldn’t be the last time O’Neill was fouled over the course of the evening, although whether or not referee Joe McQuillan awarded him a free was another matter.

Tyrone extended their lead with two Sean Cavanagh frees in the seventh and ninth minutes after fouls on Mark Donnelly and O’Neill.

The foul on Donnelly was notably cynical, the Carrickmore man pulled to the ground as he appeared to have a route to goal.

A fumble under the high ball by Cathal McCarron allowed Niall Kelly to point a minute later when a goal certainly seemed like a possibility for the Lilywhites.

Seconds later a goal did come only at the other end of the field as a Stephen O’Neill knockdown allowed Ryan McKenna to put Matthew Donnelly in on goal.

As he had done in the league semi final against the same opposition the Trillick man showed great composure to pick his spot and calmly slot the ball into the roof of the Kildare net.

Tyrone were in the driving seat and, although Kildare began to get to terms around the middle of the field, their shooting and decision-making left a lot to be desired as they shot wide after wide.

Credit goes, too, to the Tyrone defence, especially Conor Gormley and Conor Clarke, who seemed to get their hand in when it mattered to disrupt the lilywhites.

Clarke was helped by the cover afforded to him by Joe McMahon, who did an excellent job sweeping in front of the full back line, cover that was lacking against Donegal in the Ulster championship.

John Doyle narrowed the gap for Kildare eventually in the 18th minute of the half with a well-struck free from 45 metres before Tyrone responded with three more points.

Mattie Donnelly was having an excellent game and he added to his total with a sweetly-despatched effort from the wing with his left foot.

That one just about dropped over the Kildare crossbar before Sean Cavanagh did as he has so often done, and pointed from play.

Almost every person in the ground knew what was coming as he feigned to go to his left, before a trademark shimmy and sweeping effort with his right from 35 metres.

Another foul on O’Neill resulted in a second McCurry free in the 29th minute and the Tyrone lead was now six points.

Doyle got another point back before the break to leave five the difference at half time.

That five point lead lasted just ten second half minutes as Kildare raised their intensity and tempo dramatically in the second period. Doyle, Padraig O’Neill, Niall Kelly and substitute Paul Cribben were all on target for the Lilywhites.

All of a sudden, St Conleth’s Park was rocking as the home support got behind their team.

Tyrone had to do something significant - and they introduced Aidan Cassidy to midfield to try and stem the flow. And it worked bigtime as the Augher man became a dominant force in the midfield area.

The Red Hands had a terrific chance to widen the gap again, but a Stephen O’Neill penalty, after a foul on Mark Donnelly, was saved by Shane Connolly.

McCurry and Doyle exchanged frees before the re-energised Tyrone team re-took a stranglehold.

Donnelly grabbed a point of his own after an excellent Joe McMahon pass, Sean Cavanagh and Penrose pointed from frees and Peter Harte slotted over from play as Tyrone opened up a four point lead as they assumed a commanding position.

This was undoubtedly helped by the sending-off of Kildare full back Peter Kelly with six minutes remaining for a second yellow card offence.

Kildare had a late point from Eoghan O’Flaherty before a last gasp sideline from Sean Johnston dropped over the Tyrone bar instead of into the Tyrone goalmouth narrowing the gap to two points. This was the last meaningful action of the game as referee McQuillan brought it to a close.

Tyrone move on to play Meath in the second leg of the Croke Park double-header on Saturday night, Kildare left to lick their wounds as Kieran McGeeney’s great qualifier record - an unbeaten run of sixteen in his year reign - came to a bruisingly hurtful end.