It was billed as the big game of the weekend, hence the 4 pm Sunday throw-in time, and it proved to be everything we expected and more as Kerry and Donegal played out a cracking contest in Croke Park in phase two of the Super 8s.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that we weren’t in for a humdinger at HQ after the opening 15 minutes with the sides deadlocked on 0-3 apiece, however, from there on out the two teams just seemed to trade score after score until eventually Paddy Neilan had no choice but to blow it up and get the hell out of dodge.
It ebbed and it flowed. Kerry looked like they were going to win, then Donegal seemed primed and ready to take the spoils before Kerry took control once more.
In the end, it was that glorious right boot of Michael Murphy that swung a last gasp free between the sticks to see both sides finish on 1-20 and take home a share of the spoils.
Throughout all of it, the two sides were level on 16 occasions with the most enjoyable aspect of the game being the grandstand finish that occurred as both teams seemed to down tools and go shot-for-shot to see who would come out on top.
The final ten minutes of this game is our focus on this week’s edition of the Championship Deep-Dive.
We pick up the action on the 65th minute. Stephen O’Brien has just equalised for Kerry. The score is 1-16 to 1-16 and it’s anybody’s guess as to who is coming out on top in this one.
David Clifford was awesome against Mayo in phase one but he’s been well shackled by Stephen McMenamin in Croke Park and is nowhere near as influential as last week.
However, Clifford gets out in front of McMenamin to claim the pass from Adrian Spillane. McMenamin stands him up but as he tries to close the gap thinking the Fossa man will cut onto his left, he steps inside McMenamin onto his ‘weaker’ right foot and fires over the bar to nudge Kerry in front 1-17 to 1-16. A high-quality score given that not a lot had gone right for him up to that point.
Donegal retain possession from Shaun Patton’s kick-out and work the ball upfield. Eventually, Michael Murphy gathers the ball but he has no clear options in front of him.
Murphy’s body language epitomises a man who is not panicking and it’s clear that resonated throughout the team. Murphy turns back inside, before playing it to Paul Brennan. Brennan shows great hand speed to off-load to Frank McGlynn who turns back to tee up Michael Langan who instinctively fires over the bar to level it up once more at 1-17 to 1-17.
Credit to Kerry, they come straight back at Donegal and once again look to have grabbed the winner in the final minute of normal time when Jason Foley ghosts up from corner-back to fist over the bar and put Kerry into the lead once more.
It’s a brilliantly worked move by the Kingdom with the ball going through seven different sets of hands before Foley finds himself in behind. It could easily have been a goal but with the corner-back in that position, fans would have been happy with just the point heading into injury time. Kerry lead, 1-18 to 1-17.
Shortly after Foley’s score, the board goes up. We’re in for five more minutes of this carry-on and fans don’t know whether to laugh, cry or call for the defibrillator.
Donegal have gone behind again, Jamie Brennan has the chance to level it up but misses on a day where nothing seemed to go right for the Bundoran man. However, the beauty of this Donegal team is that when one star doesn’t perform, somebody else steps up.
A rip-roaring clash in Portlaoise saw @Galway_GAA pip a spirited @GaaClare outfit by two points on Saturday! The Electric Ireland Player of the Week sees two players nominated from the Tribesmen, and one from the Banner. Vote for the winner below! #GAAThisIsMajor
— Electric Ireland (@ElectricIreland) July 22, 2019
Oisín Gallen is just 19-years-old but he’s made a huge impact with Donegal in 2019. Gallen was introduced early in the match due to Niall O’Donnell’s black card and kicked 0-2, the second of which was a clutch score which he created himself to level the game in the most crucial of stages.
Seconds later a botched kick-out by Shane Ryan is snuffed out by Ryan McHugh who puts it on a plate for Michael Murphy to fire over. All of sudden from 1-18 to 1-17 behind, Donegal lead the game 1-19 to 1-18 and look to be heading to victory.
The momentum may have swung in Donegal’s direction but Kerry refuse to back down.
Clifford comes deep to try and get on the ball and make something happen. Eventually, he gathers and passes inside to Sean O’Shea.
O’Shea immediately knows that Paul Geaney is in a better position and hand passes inside to Kerry’s form player who makes no mistake. 1-19 to 1-19.
There are still three minutes remaining at this stage.
Kerry’s equalising point has swung the momentum once more. They win possession from Shaun Patton’s kick-out and keep the ball themselves until an opening emerges.
Eventually, after the ball is worked across the field and back, Paul Murphy finds Stephen O’Brien. O’Brien runs at the Donegal defence in typical O’Brien fashion and draws the free, however, the Kenmare man has the presence of mind to give it back to Murphy who kicks what looks to be the winning point. Kerry 1-20 Donegal 1-19.
With 90 seconds remaining it looks as though Kerry might just steal this one at the death, however, Donegal come straight back down the field and eventually, something goes right for Jamie Brennan as he wins a free off Paul Geaney.
That left talisman, Michael Murphy, with a free in front of the posts with the final kick of the game to level the match. The end result was never in doubt.