Kerry deny 14-man Donegal a historic win in Killarney
Kingdom take a mini-classic at Fitzgerald Stadium as David Clifford makes his bow
David Clifford made his senior Kerry debut on Sunday. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
Kerry 2-18 Donegal 3-14
For a time here, it seemed as if Donegal were on their way to a first away win over Kerry since 1988.
It’s 30 years now since Pat Spillane gifted Donegal’s Brian Murray a game-winning goal and it looked here as if a goal from Darach O’Connor, who was on just a matter of seconds, would be decisive.
O’Connor finished to the net from Hugh McFadden’s hopeful ball into the danger zone and Donegal, from two points down, were a point in front with two minutes of added time played.
Kerry summonsed the response, though, as debutant Sean O’Shea - who kicked seven points on a fine first outing - drilled over a long-range free before the returning Daithi Casey won it for the Kingdom.
Killarney man Casey slalomed through the Donegal rearguard before firing over.
“He has been playing absolutely fantastic football for Crokes and he was on our radar last year,” Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice said of his match-winner.
“He is a great guy, works hard, good for him to be back in. For a Killarney man to get a great score like that at the end of the game and to win the game by a point is all good.
“I thought the free from Sean was a great kick because there was a lot riding on it and the way the game had been so back and over the whole time, it was a big kick and Daithi got a great score then to win it.”
Donegal played 50 minutes with only 14 men after midfielder Nathan Mullins was sent off for an apparent off-the-ball kick on Brendan O’Sullivan.
Donegal ended with 13 as Tony McClenaghan, a goalscorer, and Kerry’s Gavin Crowley were dismissed for their part in a squabble.
An 18th minute goal by Stephen O’Brien helped Kerry lead 1-8 to 0-8 at half-time, but Donegal hit back when McClenaghan netted just a minute into the second half.
“We knew we’d be up against it in the second half,” said the Donegal manager Declan Bonner.
“We asked them to be brave, to have courage and to give it everything - they emptied the tank in the second half. There was real pride in the jersey in that second half.
“We felt there would be goals in the second half. We reverted to a running game and we caused Kerry a lot of problems. We scored 3-6 in the second half against a stiff breeze.
“We probably deserved more. It looked like we’d get a win. We were lacking a bit of experience in the last ten minutes.”
Donegal lost goalkeeper Mark Anthony McGinley to a 17th minute injury and the first task for his replacement, Peter Boyle, was to pick the ball from the net as O’Brien bagged the game’s opening goal.
Donegal recovered from Mullins’ dismissal with Patrick McBrearty again on song. McBrearty boomed over 10 points in all, six of them helping to keep Donegal in touch at the switchover.
McClenaghan kick-started Donegal’s revival just after the re-start and, against the fierce breeze that howled beneath the Macgillycuddy’s, the visitors took control.
Just shy of 11,000 arrived at Fitzgerald Stadium for a late January clash that was Championship-esque in its feel at times.
David Clifford was given a first Kerry start. The teenager, who hit 4-4 in last year’s All-Ireland minor final win over Derry, was edgy on his senior bow, but scored a point and had a hand in others, including O’Brien’s goal.
Stephen McBrearty kicked Donegal ahead in the 48th minute and, after Paul Geaney put a penalty over the bar, Odhrán MacNiallais, back in the Tir Chonaill panel after a self-imposed exile in 2017, palmed home a second goal for Bonner’s men.
Six minutes from the end, Geaney struck gold after Stephen O’Brien had been denied and points by O’Shea and Killian Spillane had Kerry two up.
There was still time for the tale to twist some more as O’Connor swung the pendulum only for Kerry to dig deep to salvage the win.
Fitzmaurice said: “We were open. There’s no doubt, we conceded goals.
“Donegal, you could see, were looking for that when they’re good at that long kick-out and getting a knock on and going.
“We didn’t deal well with it today but it’s something we can improve on for the future. There was a bit of inexperience, some of the things we did were naive but I think that’s the payback. You have to be prepared to take that when you’re trying out a lot of new players together.
“There was a lot in it, went on in the last bit of the game. We’re just delighted now to come out the right side of it and two points on the board straight away.”
Kerry: S Murphy; C Coffey, J Foley, S Enright; P Murphy, G Crowley (0-1), R Shanahan (0-1); Barry O’Sullivan, Brendan O’Sullivan; M Burns (0-1), S O Shea (0-7, 4f), S O’Brien (1-1); D Clifford (0-1f), P Geaney (1-2, 0-1pen), BJ Keane (0-2). Subs: J Savage for Clifford (48), J O’Donoghue for Keane (48), D Casey (0-1) for Barry O’Sullivan (55), K Spillane (0-1) for O’Donoghue (55), M Flaherty for Coffey (60), B O Seanachain for Burns (68).
Donegal: MA McGinley; S McMenamin, E Gallagher, C Ward; R McHugh, L McLoone, T McClenaghan (1-0); H McFadden, N Mullins; M O’Reilly, P Brennan, C McGonigle; P McBrearty (0-10, 8f), O MacNiallais (1-2), J Brennan(0-1). Subs: P Boyle for McGinley (17), N O’Donnell for Brennan (h-t), C Thompson for McGonigle (45), S McBrearty (0-1) for O’Reilly (46), J McGee for McLoone (66), D O’Connor (1-0) for McGee (70).
Referee: P Neilan (Roscommon)