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STEVE'S CROKE SPARK; O'Brien goal settles sleepy semi-final as awesome champions lie in wait.

Byline: MICHAEL SCULLY

AFTER the Lord Mayor's show and all that.

The mood was subdued around Croke Park yesterday, despite there being the small matter of an All-Ireland semifinal to be decided.

But only 33,848 turned up - the lowest crowd number since 33,165 watched Mayo beat Kerry in 1996 - and you have to wonder if Dublin's third quarter annihilation played a part in that.

Those who did turn up or tuned in yesterday were treated to a similar, if less explosive, outcome to the Dubs' victory over Mayo on the same pitch the previous evening.

But the outcome will gener-ate enough hype and interest to fill Croker several times over - Dublin v Kerry in the September 1 final, the old enemy battling it out and for the highest of stakes.

Dublin just 70 minutes from the unprecedented five in a row. Kerry, the last team that were in that position, the only team left standing that can stop them.

Few outside the Kingdom will bet on Peter Keane's charges pulling it off, not on the basis of this semi-final performance.

For Tyrone had looked fully in control as they headed for their half-time break. Four points to the good, Mickey Harte's game plan was working a treat.

Kerry's dangermen - David Clifford, Sean O'Shea, Paul Geaney and David Moran - were all well shackled by a disciplined and swarming Red Hands defence that allowed the Kingdom to squeeze just five points onto the scoreboard.

The Kingdom's troubles were distilled into the period between O'Shea's point from a '45 in the 22nd minute to the break, when they hit five straight wides.

At the other end, Tyrone looked menacing. Cathal Mc-Shane was outstanding and Jason Foley couldn't hold him. Mattie Donnelly slugged it out with Tadhg Morley and had the better of the arm-wrestle.

Between them, the pair scored five points from play in that opening period.

Yet Harte was concerned during the break as he believed that his team should have been further ahead. Just as Mayo would have hoped for a better lead against Dublin at the break on Saturday evening.

And Harte was right to be worried. The interval allowed Kerry the chance to settle and reset, and when they reemerged Peter Keane had made two changes - Gavin White for Shane Enright and Jack Sherwood for Adrian Spillane.

Sherwood made an instant impact with his fast, direct running and the men in green and gold seized an early initiative with points by Clifford and Geaney, before a roar from the stands greeted Clifford's 55th minute point that restored parity.

Buoyant, Kerry took a grip on proceedings moments later when Kieran McGeary coughed up possession and Geaney fed Stephen O'Brien, who cooly slotted home the only goal.

The 51st minute arrival of Tommy Walsh had a real influence on the turning of the tide as the big man's presence gave Clifford and Geaney the room to manoeuvre that they craved - and it was his movement that opened the gap for O'Brien to slip through to score.

Outstanding all year, the Kenmare forward added a point for good measure and it was a question then of whether Kerry had developed the maturity to hold what they had. Realising a goal was required, Tyrone's chance came just after the hour mark when McShane unselfishly centred for Peter Harte, but it summed up Harte's day that a feeble fisted attempt from close range was meat and drink for Shane Ryan in goal.

Kerry saw it out comfortably enough after that, matching the Red Hands score for score as the clock ticked into the red and through the six minutes of injury time allotted.

Just before time was up, O'Brien was shown a black card for a foul on sub Connor McAliskey and as of now he is out of the final, having picked up two earlier black cards this year.

He is expected to win an appeal but with or without O'Brien, Keane will know his side will have to go up several gears to have any chance against Jim Gavin's charges.

And even then that probably won't be enough.

match stats 20/24 KICKOUTS WON 25/27 16 FREES CONCEDED 22 18 TURNOVERS WON 13 23 CHANCES FROM PLAY 20 8

WIDES 6

20 CARDS 30 REF: M Deegan (Mth) ATT: 33,848 1 0 KERRY RATINGS COMPILED BY MICHAEL SCULLY RY S RYAN Tt 7

Tyrone allowed him to take short kick-outs. Made a facile but key save from Peter Harte MFOL J FOLEY TMd 5

Trusted to keep Cathal McShane quiet but it didn't work out and was replaced MO T MORLEY Hww 6

Had a ding-dong tussle with Mattie Donnelly, who dragged him all over O S T O'SULLIVAN Ct 8

Completely negated the influence of dangerous Peter Harte. A job well done d MU P MURPHY St 6

Stand-in captain from the start with Gavin White on the bench. Can do better WG CROWLEY 6

Fii Found the going tough in the opening half but improved and was moved onto Mattie Donnelly EN S ENRIGHT 6

Bbc Back in from the start but his experience counted for little in a torrid opening D MORAN (0-1) Sh 7

Stayed patient and helped to drag the Kingdom back into it with intelligent link play KSP A SPILLANE Hmu 5

Had little impact in midfield. Final place is under threat after halftime replacement B O BEAGLAOICH Lmt 6

Like many of his teammates, came into it in the second half but must improve S O'SHEA (0-6F) Cc 7

Conor Meyler stuck close but showed maturity and composure in free-taking m S O B O'BRIEN (1-2) Of 9 Outstanding, aside from the late black card. His quick-fire 1-1 put the Kingdom in control c GE P GEANEY 0-3 Se 8

Showed no lingering effects of a back injury. Shipped punishment but stood up to it SCLI D CLIFFORD (0-5, 1F) 7

Agp A superb assist for the goal and scored three points from play.

Always dangerous SP K SPILLANE EMc 5

Effective against Meath last time out, completely snuffed out here. Disappointing REPLACEMENTS G White 6

for Enright (ht), J Sherwood 7

(0-1) for A Spillane (ht), T Walsh 8

for Foley (51), D Moynihan 6

for K Spillane (58), J Lyne 6

for Crowley (71), J Barry 6

for O'Sullivan (75).

TYRONE RATINGS

COMPILED BY MICHAEL SCULLY

N MORGAN (0-2F) 7

Tdc Two points from 45s, decent kick-outs and could do nothing for Kerry's goal BR R BRENNAN 7

Sgc Solid. Perhaps lucky to get away with a high challenge on Shane Ryan MC

R MCNAMEE 6

Lbp Looked strong initially but got taken for four points by Kerry starlet David Clifford HA

P HAMPSEY So 6

Struggled to keep tabs on the ever-dangerous Paul Geaney after late call-up PMc

M MCKERNAN (0-1) Ps 6

Pumped up after scoring the game's first point but lost discipline towards the end p ME

C MEYLER TSd 6

Tasked with keeping Sean O'Shea quiet and did a decent job for a good while

F BURNS 7

Ebf Effectively fired long balls into the fullforward line in the first half. Busy around the field

C CAVANAGH 5

Qet Quiet and unable to exert influence around the middle. Could it be his last game?

M CASSIDY LMw 7

Limpet-like to David Moran early on but it was a different story after break. Came off injured K

Mc MCGEARY 6

SSl Strong first half on Stephen O'Brien but lost possession for the Kerry man's goal

N SLUDDEN (0-2) 7

Iap Intelligent movement and dangerous in possession. Ran himself into the ground

R DONNELLY (0-1) Si 6

Showed well, especially in the first half, but struggled with finding an end product s

DO M DONNELLY (0-2) Cmu 8

Classy display for the most part, and turned up all over the pitch to help out MCS C MCSHANE (0-7, 3F) 9 Mss Movement was sensational and scored seven points, four from play. Tyrone's best player HA P HARTE (0-1F) Sf 5

Strangely anonymous for a player who is relied on so much in the forwards r REPLACEMENTS C McAliskey (0-1) 6

for Sludden (53), T McCann 6

for McGeary (58), D McCurry (0-1) 7

for Cassidy (65), B Kennedy 6

for Cavanagh (69).

CAPTION(S):

DEVASTATED Tyrone forward Cathal McShane after the match
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUIR
Date:Aug 12, 2019
Words:1395
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