By Eoghan Cormican, Fitzgerald Stadium
Kerry 2-18 Donegal 3-14
A Daithi Casey point in the sixth minute of injury-time handed victory to Kerry at the end of which the hosts had 14 players on the field and Donegal one less.
With Kerry 2-16 to 2-14 in front as the clock spilled into the red, Donegal appeared to have struck a decisive blow when Darragh O’Connor, seconds on the pitch, got on the end of a Hugh McFadden delivery to palm home Donegal’s third goal.
Sean O’Shea levelled matters with a difficult free on 73 minutes, with Casey, in his first game back for the Kingdom, landing the winner in the 76th minute.
Trailing by 1-8 to 0-8 at the break, Donegal enjoyed a dream start to the second period, Paddy McBrearty setting up Tony McClenaghan for a goal within 70 seconds of the restart.
Kerry responded by kicking three of the next four scores, but Donegal were so easily finding holes in a wide open Kerry defence and Paddy McBrearty (0-2), Stephen McBrearty and Odhran MacNiallais reeled off four unanswered points to propel them into a 1-13 to 1-11 lead.
Kerry’s success in getting back level thereafter was undone by a MacNiallais goal on 58 minutes. When Paul Geaney pointed from the penalty spot, you felt it wasn’t going to be Kerry’s day.
The All Star, however, made amends, scrambling home a 64th-minute goal after Stephen O’Brien was initially blocked.
O’Brien levelled proceedings, 2-14 apiece, with the home side returning in front thanks to a third successful free from the boot of Sean O’Shea. Killian Spillane doubled their advantage.
The five and a half minutes of injury-time was frenetic stuff, during which both Gavin Crowley and Tony McClenaghan were dismissed on second yellows.
Kerry led 1-8 to 0-8 at the break, with debutants David Clifford and Sean O’Shea among their standout performers in the opening half.
Clifford provided the final assist for Barry John Keane’s two points, while also assisting Stephen O’Brien’s goal on 18 minutes.
O’Shea, meanwhile, landed four points, two from frees and two from play.
Donegal, who were largely reliant on the dead-ball accuracy of Paddy McBrearty for scores, were reduced to 14 minutes after debutant Nathan Mullins was red-carded for a challenge on Brendan O’Sullivan. The visitors almost defied their numerical disadvantage.
Scorers for Kerry: S O’Shea (0-7, 0-4 frees); P Geaney (1-2, 0-1 pen); S O’Brien (1-1); BJ Keane (0-2); K Spillane, D Casey, R Shanahan, D Clifford (0-1 free) G Crowley (0-1 each).
Scorers for Donegal: P McBrearty (0-10, 0-8 frees); O MacNiallais (1-2); T McClenaghan, D O’Connor (1-0 each); S McBrearty J Brennan (0-1 each).
Kerry: S Murphy; C Coffey, J Foley, S Enright; P Murphy, G Crowley, R Shanahan; Barry O’Sullivan, Brendan O’Sullivan; M Burns, S O’Shea, S O’Brien; D Clifford, P Geaney, BJ Keane.
Subs: J Savage for Clifford, J O’Donoghue for Keane (both 48); D Casey for Barry O’Sullivan, K Spillane for O’Donoghue (55); M Flaherty for Coffey (60); B Ó Seanacháin for Burns (68)
Donegal: MA McGinley; S McMenamin, E Bán Gallagher, C Ward; L McLoone, P Brennan, T McClenaghan; H McFadden, N Mullins; R McHugh, C McGonigle, M O’Reilly; P McBrearty, O MacNiallais, J Brennan.
Subs: P Boyle for McGinley (17 mins); N O’Donnell for J Brennan (HT); C Thompson for McGonigle (44); S McBrearty for O’Reilly (46); J McGee for McLoone(); D O’Connor for McGee (70)
Referee: P Neilan (Roscommon).