A brace of goals from Conor McKenna – one in extra time – and another from Cathal McShane were the crucial scores which secured a famous win for the Ulster side.
Given that Tyrone claimed they couldn’t field a team a week ago this result is all the more surprising.
Inevitably questions will be now be raised about their decision to effectively threaten to pull out of the series unless the GAA granted them a postponement. Ultimately it was Kerry’s sportsmanship which allowed them to stay in the competition. But Tyrone had the last laugh.
Kerry though have nobody to blame but themselves. For the second season in a row they have been dumped out of the championship by a team they were expected to beat. One suspects, there is no way back for team boss Peter Keane for this latest debacle.
In the Division 1 league semi-final last June Kerry put six goals past Tyrone; they scored another eight during their three games in the Munster championship. But on the day that mattered they malfunction.
They failed to score a goal and endured their first championship loss to Tyrone since the 2008 All-Ireland final.
It was sweet revenge for Tyrone who lost to the Kingdom in the All-Ireland semi-final two years ago. Notwithstanding the issues surrounding the extent of the Covid-19 outbreak in the squad they had had an outstanding season under new joint bosses Feargal Logan and Brian Dooher.
So, who said the All-Ireland football championship is predictable? Even a month before nobody would have suggested that Mayo and Tyrone will be meeting in their first-ever All-Ireland decider. It will be their first championship clash since the 2016 All-Ireland quarter-final.
The contest began at a blistering pace with David Clifford opening the scoring after 24 seconds. He quickly added a mark and Kerry’s pace threatened to overwhelm the Tyrone defence.
But the Ulster champions, despite failing to secure possession from their first two re-starts as they were forced to go long with them settled and outscored Kerry 5-1 to lead by four points after 15 minutes – a notable feature of their play was that two of the Tyrone points came from two members of their full-back line Ronan McNamee – who was marking Clifford – and Michael McKernan.
Every time Kerry attacked they had goal on their mind and the finally prised open the Tyrone defence after 22 minutes. But over-elaboration cost them dearly – Paul Geaney rounded keeper Niall Morgan and could have scored himself but the opted to hand pass the ball across to Stephen O’Brien who was standing in the square and his goal was disallowed
Worse was to follow for Kerry when David Clifford soloed the ball straight to Tyrone midfielder Brian Kennedy who initiated a sweeping move along the Cusack Stand side which exposed alarming gaps in the right flank of the Kerry defence.
Peter Harte combined with Niall Sludden who found Conor McKenna and in his first meaningful contribution he held his nerve to score only his side’s second goal in the championship.
A majestic point from Clifford made it a two-point game though Padraig Hampsey’s 34th minute point meant that the entire Tyrone full-back line as well as the goalkeeper and wing back had all scored and Conor McKenna’s goal was the only score their forwards had managed from play.
Meanwhile, David Clifford and Sean O’Shea were the only Kerry players to score.
A monster free from Niall Morgan ended the first half scoring to give Tyrone a one point lead at the break (1-7; 0-9).
Though Tyrone increased their lead immediately after the break with a Darren McCurry free Kerry took control as they dismantled Tyrone’s kick out strategy. The genius of David Clifford did the rest with a magnificent point from a quick David Moran free and then hitting his seventh points from a free after he was fouled by Peter Harte.
Tyrone hit a further speed bump in the 40th minute when Niall Sludden was black carded after hauling down Paul Murphy.
Paudie Clifford became only the third Kerry forward to score in the 46th minute but Tyrone – still down to 14 men – kept in touch with a McCurry free.
The game began to become increasingly fragmented as both sides started to run their benches Sean O’Shea’s fifth free after a foul on Stephen O’Brien gave Kerry a two-point lead at the second water break (0-14 to 1-9).
Darren McCurry’s third point kept the game in the melting pot but then was black carded in the 55th minute for an off the ball block on Kerry substitute Gavin Crowley
Niall Morgan denied David Clifford a goal chance in the 66th minute and though Tom O’Sulivan popped over the rebound Tyrone were far from finished.
Though down to 14 men they split open the Kerry defence with Mattie Donnelly combining with substitute Darragh Canavan. His shot was saved by Shane Ryan but 2019 All Star Cathal McShane – introduced in the 43rd minute hit the rebound to the net.
As the game ticked into injury-time Clifford won a free which O’Shea converted to tie up the game but with nine minutes of injury time to be played there was plenty of time left.
As the tension mounted McCurry edged Tyrone ahead but Clifford converted a free after a foul on himself to level the tie again. Mattie Donnelly had a chance near the end to win it for Tyrone, but he blazed wide and so the contest went to extra time.
David Clifford who shipped a knock near the end of normal time did resume. Kerry looked in trouble right form the start with Cathal McShane kicking two points after the Kerry defence was caught out of position but worst was to follow.
Kieran McGeary ballooned a chance for a point high but the balled stay in play. Jack Barry fumbled the catch and then played it straight into the path of Conor McKenna who drove it to the net to give the Ulster side a five point lead. Kerry did outscore Tyrone 3-1 during the rest of the half to cut the gap to one score.
Kerry continued to dominate in the second half of extra-time with points from Paudie Clifford and Paul Geaney leaving the minimum between the sides again. Tyrone retained their mojo and Conor McKenna won a '45 but Morgan drove it wide.
Ben O’Donnell was black carded as he attempted to stop a quick Kerry counter-attack but it scarcely mattered as Tommy Walsh drove Kerry’s last chance wide. A famous win for Tyrone against the head.
Scorers: Kerry - D Clifford 0-8,(2f, 2m), S O’Shea 0-8,(6f, 1 45), P Clifford 0-2, P Geaney, T O’Sullivan P Murphy, D O’Connor 0-1 each.
Tyrone - C McShane 1-3 (1f), C McKenna 2-0,D McCurry 0-4,(2f), N Morgan 0-2 (1 45, 1f), M Donnelly 1m, N McKernan, R McNamee, P Hampsey, P Harte 0-1 each.
Kerry: S Ryan; B O’Beaglaoich, J Foley, T O’Sullivan; M Breen, P Murphy, G White; D Moran, J Barry; D Moynihan, P Clifford, S O’Brien; D Clifford, P Geaney, S O’Shea. Subs: K Spillane for Moynihan ht; G Crowley for Breen 49m, D O’Connor for O’Brien 55m, A Spillane for Geaney 55m, T Walsh for Moran 59m ET.
Subs: P Geaney for Clifford, T Morley for O Beaglaioch, J Sherwood for Barry, G O’Sullivan for Foley, M Burns for O’Sullivan.
Tyrone: N McNamee; P Hampsey, M McKernan, R McNamee, F Burns, C Meyler, P Harte; B Kennedy, C Kilpatrick; K McGeary, M O’Neill, N Sludden; D McCurry, C McKenna, M Donnelly Subs; C McShane for Kennedy 43m, T McCann for O’Neill 55m;, D Canavan for Sludden 65m, B McDonnell for Kilpatrick 70 +3m ET.
Subs: M Bradley for McCurry, L Rafferty for Harte.
Referee: David Coldrick (Meath).