Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s side were swatted aside by Donegal and the problems for the Kerry manager continue to stack up. Not only were they lining up without mainstays like Colm Cooper, Declan O’Sullivan and Paul Galvin, they then lost Marc Ó Sé to injury, while Kieran Donaghy was carried from the field late on and Tomás Ó Sé was red carded on 40 minutes for kicking out at Ryan McHugh.
“We have a lot of work to do, and we are just going to go back at it this week and try and get our house in order,” Fitzmaurice said afterwards. “Hopefully we can get a few bodies back and try and be competitive against Down, because it’s a massive game for us now.
“We didn’t function inside, but I don’t know if it’s all down to the full-forward line. We have to win ball around the middle first of all and for most of the game, Donegal were in the control of the middle third.
“We were playing the game on their terms rather than ours. I’m definitely not going to be playing a blame game here, we’ll go back and analyse it. We’ve known all along we have a lot of work to do, it’s a seriously competitive division and unfortunately now we are staring down the barrel. We just have to keep trying to get that win.”
Donegal were easy winners and for Michael Murphy, there was some personal atonement having missed a penalty and getting sent off against Tyrone. After only five minutes, Ross Wherity was felled and the Donegal captain again took responsibility for the penalty, driving low into Brendan Kealy’s bottom corner.
That put Donegal 1-1 to 0-0 up after Leo McLoone’s opening score and Colm McFadden and Patrick McBrearty also pointed as snow fell in the north-west. Even at that early stage, Kerry were in danger of getting frozen out but they finally opened their account on 18 minutes when Johnny Buckley pointed before Tomás Ó Sé and Eoin Brosnan also scored.
However, Donegal finished the half stronger and Ryan Bradley added to an excellent Murphy point to give Jim McGuinness’s side a healthy interval advantage, 1-5 to 0-3 in front.
Once Kerry went down to 14 men their docket was a beaten one and Donegal used the extra man effectively. Although dominant, they were still not at their best but are in decent fettle in the month of March. Twelve months ago Donegal left Killarney scratching their heads following a 2-16 to 1-8 hammering, but yesterday the shoe was on the other foot.
Donegal bossed possession and seemed to be content just to keep Kerry at arm’s length. The destination of the two points was never really in doubt. For all their positivity come summer, McGuinness teams have proven to be late risers when it comes to the league. They face Cork and Mayo on the road in their next two games before finishing off their seven-game series at home to Dublin.
Donaghy was one of the few options Kerry had, with the Austin Stacks man and Eamon McGee participating in a titanic struggle. However, Donaghy was pulled between full-forward and midfield to try and stem the tide.
McLoone and Gallagher added further Donegal points as the second half took shape and Kavanagh might’ve gone for goal but was content to point. There was a distinct ease with how Donegal were making and taking scores.
With four minutes left, Kerry were handed something of a lifeline when referee Derek Fahy awarded a second penalty of the day after Eamon McGee was adjudged to have fouled Donaghy. The award was soft and so too was the kick from substitute Kieran O’Leary. Paul Durcan, the Donegal goalkeeper making his 101st inter-county appearance, comfortable saved with his legs.
“It was a tough day for Kerry and that’s something we would be familiar with from last year,” McGuinness said afterwards. “People talk about the pressure of relegation but that’s what journalists say. We know where we want to be but we’re still nowhere near where we want to be in terms of conditioning. We’re building the squad towards the summer.
“We’re all happy with how hard they’re working.”
Scorers for Donegal: M Murphy 1-5, 1-0 pen, 2f; L McLoone 0-2; C McFadden 0-1, 1f; P McBrearty, R Bradley R Kavanagh, N Gallagher 0-1 each.
Scorers for Kerry: J Buckley 0-3, 1f; T Ó Sé, E Brosnan, D O’Sullivan 0-1 each.
Subs for Donegal: M McElhinney for Wherity (53); D Molloy for McBrearty (59); M Smyth for Kavanagh (63); G McFadden for Gallagher (65).
Subs for Kerry: B McGuire for M O Sé (28); F Fitzgerald for O’Donoghue (47); J Sherwood for Crowley (53); K O’Leary for O’Sullivan (63); A Garnett for Donaghy (70).
Referee: D Fahy (Longford).