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COMMENT Red-hot Cathal McShane raises Tyrone from their Covid sickbed to shatter Kerry's All-Ireland dreams

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Tyrone joint-managers Feargal Logan, right, and Brian Dooher celebrate after the win over Kerry

Tyrone joint-managers Feargal Logan, right, and Brian Dooher celebrate after the win over Kerry

Tyrone joint-managers Feargal Logan, right, and Brian Dooher celebrate after the win over Kerry

CATHAL McShane raised his team from their Covid sickbed on a wild and momentous afternoon when Tyrone declined all instructions to quarantine from wonderland.

A second semi-final aristocratic beheading in as many weeks – this one after an epic battle that required extra-time to deliver its supreme court verdict – carried the Red Hand to a dreamland kingdom.

McShane, Darren ­McCurry and Conor McKenna gave a firework ­display of Tyrone’s ­potential as Kerry, once their mighty talisman David Clifford was lost to injury, sagged like a condemned tenement.

The Reeling in the Years feel to the sporting week endured through an extraordinary contest.

Cristiano Ronaldo back at Old Trafford, and Tyrone’s wolverine hunger and blowtorch intensity ensuring dark memories were rapping on the door of Kerry’s minds.

It was 2008 all over again.

McShane was summoned from the bench to deliver a killing 1-3 blitzkrieg; Conor McKenna kicked two goals; Darren McCurry sparked brilliantly after a muted first 35.

It was like those days when Peter Canavan, Brian Dooher and Stephen O’Neill invaded Kerry’s dreams.

And so, the black hole on the Kingdom’s All-Ireland CV extends to an eighth year.

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Cathal McShane of Tyrone celebrates with supporters

Cathal McShane of Tyrone celebrates with supporters

Cathal McShane of Tyrone celebrates with supporters

It was a wondrous rising up from Tyrone in a contest ­delayed by a fortnight ­because of the Covid outbreak which had reportedly ravaged 17 of their squad.

Here, though, was a vaccine infinitely more powerful than AstraZeneca.

The result was undeniably cruel on Clifford, who delivered a towering 70 minutes before surrendering to a ­debilitating leg injury.

Croke Park’s artist in ­residence, summer’s poet laureate, had authored a ­stunning August rhapsody.

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On a day when Kerry teetered and ultimately fell, Clifford delivered a firework display of his brilliance.

Eight points – four from play, two courtesy of hard-won marks, two frees – almost carried Kerry to safety.

But ultimately it could not quench an Ulster blaze that consumed Peter Keane’s team and his days as sideline capo.

Tyrone, relocating the ­savage intensity of their ­glory days, delivered something seismic.

This was a performance sculpted from the Ricey ­McMenamin playbook of ­unbending ferocity. And then McShane arrived from the bench to fill the roll of North Star, illuminating the road to Sam.

Just weeks ago the bookies had almost suspended betting on a Dublin versus Kerry final.

Now it is Tyrone who will seek to demolish Mayo’s ­hothouse of yearning.

The notion that their Covid issues meant that the Ulster champions must be dancing on quicksand rapidly dissolved­.

Their unbending fury was a feature of an opening 35 minutes where the six-point underdogs continually profited from turning over the clearly rattled Munster aristocrats.

Remarkably, Tyrone keeper Niall Morgan – via a ‘from-a-different-time-zone’, scored a 75-yard free in the final breath of the first half – and all three of their full-back line scored in an opening period that concluded with them 1-7 to 0-9 ahead.

McKenna, the former Aussie Rules star, inhabited the margins until his impatience to move centre stage carried him to the end of a sweeping move – the ball moving, in the blink of an eye, from Kieran McGeary to Peter Harte to Niall Sludden – for a goal that offered huge momentum.

Only the younger Clifford and Seán O’Shea had scored for Kerry until Paudie Clifford, a hugely influential midsummer figure who was largely decommissioned by Tyrone’s ferocious urgency, found his range in the 46th minute.

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Kieran McGeary of Tyrone in action against Kerry's Killian Spillane

Kieran McGeary of Tyrone in action against Kerry's Killian Spillane

Kieran McGeary of Tyrone in action against Kerry's Killian Spillane

Still, slowly, seemingly ­inexorably, and aided by two Ulster sinbinnings, Kerry seemed to be gaining critical momentum.

Then, in the 69th minute, the battle turned on its head.

McShane’s goal put Tyrone ahead and left Kerry and Keane staring calamity in their face.

Clifford, badly hobbled by a collision with Morgan when Kerry looked set to score a critical goal, rose again.

Limping badly, he won the free from which Seán O’Shea equalised.

Then after McCurry, who enjoyed a huge second half restored Tyrone’s league, the Fossa wonder earned another free and tapped it over to secure extra time.

What an unlikely and ­compelling story was unspooling on a gloriously sun-kissed afternoon.

Any consensus proclaiming the passing years had dimmed the sharp edge of this edgy rivalry had already been ­challenged by some ­particularly testy pre-match exchanges between Pat ­Spillane and Sean Cavanagh on the RTÉ gantry.

Kerry surrendered some of their mystique in their inability to take down Tyrone across the Noughties – and now they were once more wobbling on the Red Hand precipice.

Once McKenna added his ­second goal they were tumbling into darkness.

Kerry rallied to move within a point, but without Clifford to right them, they could not escape their death spiral.

And so they join Dublin on the summer scrapheap and Tyrone – led by their rookie joint managers Fergal Logan and Dooher – stand on the cusp of dreamland.

Only Mayo can stop them partying like its 2008.

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