Rory Gallagher admits both his Donegal side and Kerry didn’t come out of last year’s Allianz League Division 1 clash overly well, but he doesn’t anticipate a repeat on Sunday.
Last March in Tralee, Donegal’s Leo McLoone and Kerry’s Alan Fitzgerald were red-carded by referee Eddie Kinsella for striking in an unsavoury encounter that Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s team won 1-13 to 1-8.
Both managers were summoned to the referee’s dressing room at half-time in a bid to quell the tensions and in the aftermath both counties were fined €5,000, with Donegal full-back Neil McGee given a one-match ban retrospectively for his part in the incident that led to Fitzgerald’s sending off.
On Sunday, there will be a repeat of the 2014 All-Ireland final at O’Donnell Park in Letterkenny, with Kerry having visited the ground before in 2007 for a fixture in which Brian McIver’s Donegal came out on top on their way to winning the league for the first and only time.
“We think that we have a healthy rivalry, but it spilled over,” Gallagher said yesterday of last year’s fixture at Austin Stack Park.
“Both teams did not set out for that to happen and the year previously we had a terrific game of football with them. I am told that there was a great game of football against them in Letterkenny before and we would be hoping for something similar.
“I don’t think ourselves or Kerry would be too happy with how we came out of it. There is no doubt that it was overly physical and it is something that probably should not have happened, but it did, but we have to move on from it and we have moved on from it, now.”
Perhaps some of the reason for the edge last March was the fact that Gallagher’s Donegal went south with a 100% record and Kerry had only two points on the board.
“The league is funny,” said Gallagher.
“We went into it having won three and were almost certain to be safe. It was a must-win game for them and that brought an edge to it from their point of view.”
The loss for Donegal was the first of five in succession, the others coming against Roscommon in Letterkenny, Monaghan in Castleblayney, and twice at Dublin’s hands, the second being the league semi-final at Croke Park.
The winds of change have swept through both counties in recent times and Sunday looks like it will be an opportunity for Gallagher and Fitzgerald to introduce some fresh blood into their panels.
“Like ourselves, they will be going with a younger team,” said Gallagher.
“The fact that they have three all-Ireland winning minor teams means that they have any amount of players. They beat Cork well in the McGrath Cup so they will be happy with where they are at.”
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