DONEGAL GOT OFF to a losing start in the Allianz National Football League Division 1 against Kerry at Fitzgerald Stadium in Killarney but can count themselves unlucky.
Kerry 2-18 Donegal 3-14
Daithi Casey scored the winning point six minutes in stoppage time – after two had been signalled – to give last year’s league champions a winning start on their home turf.
Declan Bonner, the Donegal manager, will be disappointed to have to have to face the long journey home with nothing, especially after such a spirited performance that had Donegal on the cusp of a first away win in the Kingdom since 1988.
Nathan Mullins was sent off for Donegal for an off-the-ball incident with Brendan O’Sullivan after only 20 minutes and Tony McClenaghan of Donegal and Kerry’s Paul Geaney were both given straight reds late on for their part in a fisticuffs session.
Donegal also lost goalkeeper Mark Anthony McGinley to a 17th minute injury with Peter Boyle taking up his position between the posts.
It was a match that had plenty of talking points. Donegal trailed 1-8 to 0-8 at half-time and looked to be facing a stern test to even keep in touch with a one-man disadvantage following Mullins’ dismissal and the fact they had to play into the breeze after the break.
Stephen O’Brien’s goal had Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s men ahead at the break, 1-8 to 0-8, with Patrick McBrearty on target six times in that opening 35 minutes for the visitors. McBrearty would continue his excellent form of late with 10 points in all.
Much was made of the inclusion of 19-year-old David Clifford for Kerry, following his 4-4 in last year’s All-Ireland Minor final win over Derry. On the day, though, Clifford played second fiddle to another excellent product the Kerry production line, Sean O’Shea, who kicked seven points in all.
Bonner will perhaps be best pleased by the fine response to his side’s interval arrears. With Stephen McBrearty and Niall O’Donnell entering the fray, Donegal rallied.
A McCleneghan goal in the second minute of the second half, following a Patrick McBrearty assist brought Donegal level at 1-8 apiece. Scored followed at either end before Stephen McBrearty and Odhran MacNiallais popped over points to leave Donegal 1-13 to 1-11 in front.
But there were still a few chapters to be written. Paul Geaney sent a Kerry penalty over Boyle’s crossbar on 55 minutes and after the hosts got back on terms when O’Shea equalised from a free than Odhran MacNiallais palmed home a second Donegal goal to make it 2-13 to 1-13 with 56 minutes played.
With Donegal camouflaging the one-man deficit well, the match continued to end and flow. But it was soon level again – on 64 minutes – when following a Geaney goal after O’Brien was initially blocked, O’Brien pointed to make it 2-14 to 2-14.
Donegal looked to be wilting and two points late on from O’Shea and Killian Spillane opened up a two-point Kerry lead as the clock ticked form black to red on 70 minutes.
Remarkably, though, Donegal weren’t done yet and a goal from the just-introduced Darach O’Connor from a Hugh McFadden delivery left the visitors 3-14 to 2-16 up. But it was to be Kerry’s day with O’Shea levelling it up on 73 minutes and then Casey – on his return to the Kerry seniors following a couple of years out – striking that late winner.
Donegal welcome Galway to O’Donnell Park in Letterkenny this day week and certainly be proud of their effort on the road today.
Scorers for Kerry: Sean O’Shea 0-7 (4fs), Paul Geaney 1-2 (0-1 pen), Stephen O’Brien 1-1, Barry John Keane 0-2, David Clifford 0-1 (1f), Ronan Shanahan 0-1, Gavin Crowley 0-1, Micheal Burns 0-1, Killian Spillane 0-1, Daithi Casey 0-1.
Scorers for Donegal: Paddy McBrearty 0-10 (8fs), Odhran MacNiallais 1-2, Tony McClenaghan 1-0, Darach O’Connor 1-0, Jamie Brennan 0-1, Stephen McBrearty 0-1.
KERRY: Shane Murphy, Cormac Coffey, Jason Foley, Shane Enright, Paul Murphy, Gavin Crowley, Ronan Shanahan, Barry O’Sullivan, Brendan O’Sullivan, Micheál Burns, Seán Ó Sé, Stephen O’Brien, David Clifford, Paul Geaney, Barry John Keane.
Subs: James O’Donoghue for BJ Keane (49), Jack Savage for D Clifford (49), Daithi Casey for Barry O’Sullivan (55), Killian Spillane for J O’Donoghue (inj, 55), Matthew Flaherty for C Coffey (60), Brian Ó Seanacháin for M Burns (69)
DONEGAL: Mark Anthony McGinley, Stephen McMenamin, Caolan Ward, Tony McClenaghan, Ryan McHugh, Leo McLoone, Eaoghan Bán Gallagher, Hugh McFadden, Nathan Mullins, Martin O’Reilly, Paul Brennan, Caolan McGonigle, Patrick McBrearty, Jamie Brennan, Odhran MacNiallais.
Subs: Peter Boyle for M A McGinley (inj, 18), Niall O’Donnell for J Brennan (ht), Ciaran Thompson for C McGonigle (45), Stephen McBrearty for M O’Reilly (48), Jason McGee for L McLoone (67), Darach O’Connor for J McGee (70+1).
REFEREE: Paddy Neilan (Roscommon).