Keane and Bonner focus on the positives after epic battle

Both Kerry and Donegal managers take encouragement from drawn Croke Park clash

It would be hard to imagine a much cagier gathering than the post-match media conferences two-thirds of the way through the Super 8s schedule. Except when the teams draw.

Sunday's second phase two quarter-final match had promised to be much the same as a visit to the Dalai Lama - and given the geography involved, almost as arduous a journey for the teams: an opportunity to unravel the mysteries of existence in terms of the All-Ireland football championship.

It would put in context Kerry’s thumping win over Mayo and provide a perfect test of Donegal’s credentials. Were they to be Kerry’s biggest stumbling block, or would Kerry be theirs?

Both Peter Keane and Declan Bonner were asked, were they relieved or disappointed? Both said that it had been a combination and cast around for topics that would involve as few specifics as possible.


What about each making three changes to their announced teams? And team announcements in general? Keane was asked about not releasing his substitutes’ list for the last two weeks.

“It is difficult sometimes when you are – look, it’s my first year into it and next thing you see somebody else and they are only firing out 15 and you are saying I’m throwing out everything to some fella.”

But doesn’t the 26-man panel have to go in [to Croke Park] on Thursday morning?

"Can I ask you a question? When did you know the Donegal team?

Reporter: “I don’t know to be quite honest.”

Keane: “Well, that is the answer.”

When similarly questioned, Bonner struck out for new ground.

“I think you should go with squad numbers. We named a squad by late Wednesday evening for Thursday morning and we lost two key players that were in that 26 that could not tog out so we were left with 24 players that we could not change. It is a ridiculous rule that needs to change so we can go with squad numbers.”

Would he have any issue with releasing a panel of 26?

“I would have no issues with that at all.”

On the field, Keane was happy enough but ready to quibble a few of Donegal's frees, including the penalty that Michael Murphy tucked away.

Great game

“Coming, hoping that at the end of the day you would have four points out of the two games, you have three so look, it is better than two. I thought we fought like hell towards the end.

“There was a never-say-die attitude by us and I thought there were a couple of frees that went against us that were bordering on not being frees and do you know every time we were getting ahead, they were getting back some way or another but I thought we fought and fought well.

“I felt the penalty was pretty tough, I thought he met him body on like you know. To me looking where I saw it is very hard and I’m not being critical of a referee. Sometimes you are looking and saying, oh Jaysus how did that happen? I felt he stood him up. What’s your opinion?”

A polite murmur gave way to a distinct view that it had been a stonewall penalty.

The injured players are expected to be available for the concluding round of the quarter-finals on the August weekend. For Kerry, David Moran and Jack Barry are likely to be on the bus to Navan and Donegal hope to have Neil McGee and Paddy McGrath back although Eoghan Bán Gallagher's broken ankle rules him out for the rest of the season.

"Yeah," said Bonner. "Listen, we lost basically our full-back line. But the lads who came in did really well, Odhrán McFadden-Ferry was really good, Caolan Ward and Stephen McMenamin and we got to grips with David Clifford. I thought to man they really battled, gave it their all and left it all out on the pitch.

"But listen, we have it all to do now in two weeks in Castlebar. We haven't even looked at Mayo. We'll sit down this evening and start getting ready for that over the next 13 days. From our point of view I thought it was a great game of football, the lads showed real character. Both teams went at it and it was an epic battle."

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times