Another point for Kerry and the scoreline would have been a carbon copy of their opening Division 1 game in Newbridge 12 months ago.
Instead, it was new Donegal captain Paddy McBrearty who started the post-Michael Murphy era in style for Donegal with a humdinger of a winning point from 40 metres out in additional time.
McBrearty may have been quiet by his usual high standards in Ballybofey but there he was to provide leadership and a deserving victory for Donegal who had previously led on three occasions in the second half having been six points down after 25 minutes.
Kerry were coasting in the opening quarter but went 20 minutes without scoring across the half-time break, raised just three white flags from the 26th minute on and struggled on their kick-outs in the third quarter. David Moran’s name might have been mentioned among the travelling support.
While debutant Dara Roche showed well with three points in the opening half, Tony Brosnan and Killian Spillane struggled alongside him. With more attacking reinforcements at Jack O’Connor’s disposal, they would not have survived the entire game.
As strenuous as the conditions were, six second-half wides and one shot dropped short was a poor return. And yet it was in the opening period where Jack O’Connor felt his team lost the game. “The first half cost us, we were in control of that game. We were very wasteful for a period there, we must have hit the post three or four times and missed easy chances to put the game away. We turned over a few balls before half-time and they got a few scores on the break.”
A significant crosswind made shooting difficult and Kerry did three relatively easy chances in the first half. Roche earned a simple mark opportunity less than three minutes in but the elements pushed it wide. However, the Glenflesk man was up and running with the first score of the game in the eighth minute and had three to his name by the end of the half.
After a couple of long-range Donegal scores, Paul Murphy levelled the game in the 13th minute. From the resultant restart, Dara Moynihan stripped Brendan McCole, and kicked the opening goal of the game.
Two further Kerry points followed, one of them spawning from Kerry pressurising Caolan McColgan into giving up the ball. Conor O’Donnell ended an 11-minute scoreless patch for Donegal but Roche hit back with the next two scores and Kerry were a comfortable 1-6 to 0-3 up in the 25th minute.
However, that’s when their first-half tally ended as Donegal steadied themselves with three points before half-time. O’Donnell and Caolan McColgan added their second scores, McColgan’s appearing to have tailed wide, and Johnny McGroddy rounded off the half in additional time to bring Donegal with three points.
“At one stage I think we were six or seven points down and yet at half-time it was very evident that almost all the scores we conceded were just mistakes that fellas made,” said Carr. “The biggest mistake is to be worrying about making a mistake. I just thought they played with a good bit of freedom there and they were trying to play good football in difficult conditions. It was very satisfying to see that.”
Looking to break quick from defence and making hay on Kerry’s kick-outs, Donegal sparkled in the third quarter and having been 1-6 to 0-6 down at half-time drew level and also went ahead in the 44th minute. Murphy ended a 20-minute barren spell to equalise for Kerry in the 49th minute but a Shaun Patton 45 in the 54th minute pushed Donegal ahead once more.
Substitute Ruairí Murphy squared the game for a fourth time in the 65th minute yet the home side responded with wing-back Caolan McColgan’s third point of the afternoon. Another replacement in Donal O’Sullivan levelled matters with a fisted point but McBrearty was on the money with his shot from distance.
O’Connor at least took something from Kerry’s battling qualities in the closing stages. “The lads that were here tried very hard. Those boys have not played together very much and the one pleasing aspect is that I thought the lads who came on gave us a big lift when the game was going away from us in the last quarter of an hour.”
For Carr, there was satisfaction in claiming two points with a team almost as weakened as Kerry’s and not needing to call on the likes of Ryan McHugh from the bench. “I know there was a lot said during the week about what sort of team Kerry were going to put on the field but any fella who puts the Kerry jersey on after going away with the Sam Maguire last year, they are always going to be very tough.
“We can only concern ourselves with the worries we have because we have a significant number of lads with long-term injuries now. I would like to think those injuries are not months away, are weeks away from coming back on board, and I think it's a well-known fact that the way the league and championship is structured this year that it will always be an advantage to have a strong, extended squad. If you can go out and strengthen the squad and get a performance like we did today, that's heartening.”
C. O’Donnell, C. McColgan (0-3 each); D. Ó Baoill (0-2); J. McGroddy, J. Brennan, L. McGlynn, S. Patton (45), P. McBrearty (0-1 each).
D. Roche (0-3); D. Moynihan (1-0); P. Murphy (0-2); T. O’Sullivan, K. Spillane, R. Murphy, D. O’Sullivan (0-1 each).
: S. Patton; M. Curran, B. McCole, C. Ward; M. O’Reilly, S. McMenamin, C. McColgan; C. McGonagle, J. McGee; D. Ó Baoill, H. McFadden, J. McGroddy; C. O’Donnell, P. McBrearty, J. Brennan.
Subs for Donegal: R. McFadden for C. McGonagle (temp, 32-34); L. McGlynn for H. McFadden (42); J. McKelvey for J. McGroddy (64).
: S. Murphy; G. O’Sullivan, J. Foley, T. O’Sullivan; M. Breen, T. Morley, P. Murphy; J. Barry, B. O’Sullivan; M. Burns, D. Moynihan, A. Spillane; T. Brosnan, D. Roche, K. Spillane.
Subs for Kerry: R. Murphy for A. Spillane, P. Warren for M. Breen (both 48); D. O’Sullivan for M. Burns, S. Okunbor for B. O’Sullivan (both 55); D. Geaney for T. Brosnan (temp 55-56); G. Horan for D. Moynihan (62).
: L. Devenney (Mayo).