He who makes space, makes scores
Kerry’s attacking efforts in the first half were defined by their ability to make space for quality chances. When men were able to get open and steady, more often than not they scored. Bryan Sheehan and James O’Donoghue set the tone early. Sheehan put Declan O’Sullivan into space for the Kingdom’s opening score of the game. The midfielder subsequently added two points from frees in favourable position, both of which were won by O’Donoghue. Playing in the spike between the two forward lines, O’Donoghue was able to drive forward in possession. Tyrone’s backs had to respect the options in front of him, Colin Cooper and Kieran Donaghy, and this allowed O’Donoghue to seek contact and draw fouls. In addition to his solid link-up play, O’Donoghue added a score on 25 minutes, turning to evade three defenders which gave him room to pop over from straight in front of the posts. This began a run of 4 points in 9 minutes for Kerry, all of which saw Kerry seek out the open man. Cooper got more into the game, starting a three-man move that finished in a Paul Galvin point on 32 minutes. Cooper added a score from space a minute later after Sheehan found him open.
Despite putting 0-8 on the board, Kerry were profligate for much of the first half. Hitting the post twice didn’t help but 5 of Kerry’s 8 missed chances were down to poor decision making by the Kingdom’s attackers. Having dominated the first half, Kerry failed to reach the break with a lead that reflected their attacking edge.
Tyrone’s short game backfires
The visitors had a clear plan to try and play short and fast to get around the Kerry backs. Having the recent experience of taking on Donegal’s defensive juggernaut, Mickey Harte’s charges approached the first half looking to pass their way through Kerry’s cover. Initially it looked like an option that could pay off as Colm Kavanagh and Conor Clarke kept Tyrone in touch on the score board. In between those points Joe McMahon picked out Sean O’Neill in space with a low cross-field pass but O’Neill’s finish was undercooked. It didn’t take long for Kerry’s defence to adapt. Playing a high defensive line, Kerry forced Harte’s charges to go back and recycle the ball repeatedly. The longer Tyrone took to create a chance, the more they looked like giving up turnovers. Eventually the Kingdom would force slack passes and break out. This extended run of dominance by Kerry’s backs saw Tyrone held scoreless for 21 minutes, with Tyrone managing just 3 scoring chances in the interim.
Tyrone stretch the field, with predictable results
Despite trailing by just four points at the break, Tyrone needed to take a substantial risk to get their attack back into the game. By advancing their defensive players up-field, Tyrone opened up the game and put pressure on the Kerry defence. Two goal chances were created with defensive players involved, yielding 1-1. Ryan McMenamin put Aidan Cassidy through on 38 minutes but the substitute took a point from short range when the goal was on. Tyrone’s lone major was a tad workmanlike but was still reliant on defenders roaming up-field. McMahon’s initial effort was stopped before Conor Gormley bundled it home.
Kerry however benefited far more from this tactical shift by Tyrone. By bringing their defenders more into attack, Tyrone were stretched at the back and Kerry countered ruthlessly. Tomás Ó Sé set Declan O’Sullivan loose again for a point on 40 minutes before the engine really got running. Three scores in five minutes gave Kerry permanent control going into the closing stages of the game. The Kingdom’s goal started with O’Sullivan before Cooper fed Sheehan. The midfielder fisted across goal and Donaghy fisted home, recording his first score of the summer. Then on 49 minutes Cooper combined with Donaghy again to put O’Donoghue in position for his second score of the match. The introduction of Darran O’Sullivan allowed Kerry to once again exploit the greater space available. On 50 minutes he darted forward and set up Cooper for the finish. Despite going 12 minutes before adding another score, Kerry never looked in trouble from this point on. Two quick points by Cooper, including a one-two with Donaghy, ended the game as a contest before Donaghy and Patrick Curtin tacked on a couple of insurance scores.
Donaghy finds his feet, eventually
Jack O’Connor has experimented plenty with Kieran Donaghy, going all the way back to last year’s All-Ireland Final. Having adopted an increasingly defensive role this season, the Austin Stacks man has finally been switched back to a more conventional front-line assignment. Having rarely left the 21 in the first 20 minutes, Donaghy ventured further out as the half wore on but never looked likely to drop deep. Despite looking far more comfortable in such a high role, Donaghy’s lack of playing time up front meant he needed time to make an impact. There were promising signs in the first half, with one shot off the post and the big man also put Cooper through on goal only for his effort to also hit the upright.
Once he got going, Donaghy proved a key part of the attack. Given his relative lack of acceleration, it makes more sense for Donaghy to be more of a creator than a finisher and he had a hand in three points. Both of Donaghy’s scores played to his strengths, with the big man’s physique allowing him to be in position to finish from close range.
Tyrone made two big calls in this game and neither worked as Kerry’s defence held firm. Neither their short-passing game nor the swashbuckling second-half switch worked in their favour and Kerry always held the edge in attack. A brief flurry in the second half was followed by a 24 minute scoreless run (27 including stoppage time) to finish the game.
Psychologically this performance will stand to Kerry’s attack but O’Connor will be well aware of the wealth of chances left on the field today. Impressive as a 10-point margin of victory was, particularly given it was Kerry’s first championship win over Tyrone since 1986, the Kingdom should have put this game to bed earlier. Their next opponent, Clare, present the ideal opportunity for Kerry to hone their finishing. Traditional as Donaghy’s new assignment may be, this is a Kerry attack in transition. The Kingdom have a rare opportunity in the fourth round to play a lower-quality opponent that won’t go into a defensive shell.
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Programming note: Next up is our analysis of Dublin vs. Meath in the Leinster Final. Then on Monday we’ll have analysis of the Ulster Final between Donegal and Down. For the full schedule, check out our Facebook page.