Kingdom’s determination earns its reward

Kerry 2-13 Donegal 2-11

Donegal felt the full force of a rebounding Kerry yesterday — the dominance of the home outfit reflected in all but the scoreline.

There may not have been many alarm bells sounded in the wake of Kerry’s 11-point whipping by Cork, but as Johnny Buckley admitted, it was to a cloud of negativity each Kerry player awoke to on Monday morning.

While victory was at the top of their agenda, a redemptive performance was also on the to list for this repeat of the September showpiece.

Where the contest was taken out of Kerry’s control at Páirc Uí Rinn, the All-Ireland champions were savage in their determination to ensure they dictated the terms of war in front of a 6,250-strong crowd at Austin Stack Park. Mark Griffin won the opening tussle with Donegal full-forward Michael Murphy. Buckley rose highest to collect successive kick-outs arriving from either end. Kieran Donaghy swept out to the 45-metre line to lend a hand to foraging colleagues and it was a foul on the Kerry captain that enabled Bryan Sheehan open their account. The battle lines were drawn. Kerry were not prepared to give an inch.

The battles lines would deepen as a heated opening half wore on. Neil Gallagher and Michael Murphy far from endeared themselves to the home contingent when upending Stephen O’Brien on different occasions. Murphy’s challenge on the Kenmare forward under the dropping ball didn’t sit well with the Kerry players. Referee Rory Hickey chose not to card the full-forward, with the Clare official booed off the field at half-time. Indeed, Hickey’s return to the dressing room was delayed momentarily as players clashed in the tunnel underneath the main stand.

For all their forward endeavour, midfield dominance and superb work-ethic in defence, 64 minutes elapsed before Kerry’s superiority was accurately reflected on the scoreboard.

A wayward Tommy Walsh kick was gathered by Paul O’Donoghue, the second-half sub illegally challenged by Éamonn McGee. In the absence of Bryan Sheehan, withdrawn at half-time complaining of a rib problem, David Moran stepped up to the penalty kick. The ball was clinically dispatched beyond Paul Durcan — 2-12 to 1-10.

Stephen O’Brien further stretched their advantage in the subsequent action.

Paddy McBrearty cut the deficit with his fourth point and the outcome was thrown back into the pot when Anthony Maher was adjudged to have fouled Colm McFadden in the closing minutes. Michael Murphy nailed the resulting penalty. Cue 12 Kerry men flooding deep into their own half to close it out.

Such a negative, if necessary approach, was far removed from a first-half showing built on aerial supremacy of Anthony Maher, David Moran and Johnny Buckley. Three placed ball efforts from the right boot of Sheehan had moved Fitzmaurice’s charges into a deserved early lead.

On 10 minutes one sweeping passage of play propelled Donegal into pole position, undoing Kerry’s promising start. Hugh McFadden, Michael Murphy and Martin O’Reilly combined in putting through Ryan McHugh and the centre-back slotted the ball into the corner of Brendan Kealy’s goal.

Donegal’s players, grouped into threes, spent much of the warm-up engaging in 60-metre sprints. Catching Kerry on the counter was their game-plan. Aside from McHugh’s goal, however, it was a system that provided little or no return before being abandoned in the closing stages.

Killian Young assumed the role of sweeper as opposite number Mark McHugh foraged further out the field. And notwithstanding his missed goal opportunity on 56 minutes, the Kerry defender hardly put a foot wrong.

Kerry continued unperturbed following McHugh’s green flag and kept their opponents scoreless for the next 12 minutes. At the other end, four points were whipped over in rampant succession.

Paul Murphy, Moran, Barry John Keane and Sheehan pushed Kerry ahead. It was a lead they carried to the break (0-9 to 1-5) despite Hugh McFadden, Murphy (free) and Martin McElhinney efforts.

The introduction of Colm McFadden for the second half and Murphy’s redeployment to centre-forward injected fresh impetus into the travelling cause. McFadden and Murphy, with McBrearty, kicked three unanswered minors to edge Gallagher’s side two clear — scarcely believable on the balance of play. Kerry cried out for a moment of brilliance to reward their efforts. What materialised on 45 minutes was more Donegal ponderousness than anything else. Paul Geaney robbed Neil McGee of possession, turned inside the Donegal defender and floated the ball across the square, where Barry John Keane fisted to the net. Geaney and Buckley traded points with McBrearty and Neil Gallagher thereafter, Donegal’s bid to achieve parity frustrated by a string of wides from Colm McFadden, Mark McHugh and Christy Toye. Moran’s penalty kick ensued, redemption followed.

Game-changer

Colm McFadden, Christy Toye and Mark McHugh kicked three poor wides directly before David Moran slotted the penalty which, ultimately, saw Kerry across the line.

Talk of the town

The turnaround in the Kerry performance seven days after falling by 11 points to Cork.

Did that just happen?

Jonathan Lyne registering Kerry’s first wide after 25 minutes, their sole transgression in this department in the first period.

Fitzmaurice’s forward unit was a model of efficiency in the opening half.

Best on show

Johnny Buckley put in a tremendous shift here. Contributed to Kerry’s aerial dominance around the middle.

Made life extremely difficult for Karl Lacey, and, indeed the entire Donegal half-back unit.

Black card watch

Michael Murphy fouled Stephen O’Brien either side of half-time, and was yellow-carded for the second infringement. Neil Gallagher too was lucky to escape black when upending O’Brien with a high tackle on 23 minutes.

Sideline superior

Stephen Enright was introduced for Pa Kilkenny on the Kerry side after 47 minutes. The latter struggled all through against Paddy McBrearty and it was a change in personnel that should have been made much earlier.

The man in black

Rory Hickey was booed off the field at half and full-time by the Kerry supporters. Eamonn Fitzmaurice took particular grievance with the decision not to award Paul O’Donoghue a free at the end of the second half. There were several other examples where justice evaded the home outfit.

What’s next?

Kerry welcome to Monaghan in a fortnight bidding to cement a league semi-final berth; Donegal host Tyrone in Ballybofey.

Eoghan Cormican Scorers for Kerry: B Sheehan (0-6, 0-1 ’45, 0-3f); D Moran, BJ Keane (1-1 each); P Murphy, P Geaney, J Buckley, S O’Brien, A Fitzgerald (0-1). Scorers for Donegal: M Murphy (1-3, 1-0 pen, 0-1 ’45, 0-2f); P McBrearty (0-4); R McHugh (1-0); C McFadden, M McElhinney, N Gallagher, H McFadden (0-1).

Subs for Kerry: A Fitzgerald for Sheehan (HT, inj), S Enright for Kilkenny (47), T Walsh for Geaney (54), P O’Donoghue for Keane (63), F Fitzgerald for P Crowley (66), K O’Leary for Buckley (68).

Subs for Donegal: C McFadden for McElhinney (HT), A Thompson for Doherty (56), M McElhinney for H McFadden (63, inj), E McMugh for O’Reilly (66), G McFadden for M McHugh (72), D McLaughlin for Toye (72).

Referee: R Hickey (Clare).

Kerry: B Kealy; P Kilkenny, M Griffin, P Murphy; J Lyne, P Crowley, K Young; A Maher, D Moran; S O’Brien, B Sheehan, J Buckley; P Geaney, K Donaghy, BJ Keane. Donegal: P Durcan; P McGrath, E McGee, N McGee; K Lacey, R McHugh, E Doherty; H McFadden, N Gallagher; M McHugh, M McElhinney, C Toye; M O’Reilly, M Murphy, P McBrearty.


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