Michael Corry reporting live from Croke Park
Wow, what a finish.
It looked like Kerry’s match, then it looked like Donegal’s. In the end, it finished a draw and it was probably a fair reflection on what was a highly entertaining finish at Croke Park.
Michael Murphy and Paul Geaney proved the heroes on both sides finishing with 1-8 and 1-4 respectively, while both Stephen McMenamin and Tom O’Sullivan did exceptionally well on in-form forwards, David Clifford and Jamie Brennan.
Here are our conclusions following a ding-dong battle in Croke Park.
Tight First Half
A tight and intense first half. Kerry seemed to settle into the game quicker and could have had a goal through David Clifford following a simply sublime pass from Seán O’Shea but Shaun Patton made an excellent stop to deny Kerry’s go-to man.
Donegal eventually pegged them back with Michael Murphy growing into his usual influential self while Patrick McBrearty stood up shortly before the short whistle.
The game ebbed and flowed and eventually an O’Shea free in front of the posts with the last kick of the half put Kerry into a 0-10 to 0-9 lead at the break.
Even Tighter Second
Both teams traded scores throughout the second half until Paul Geaney’s goal put Kerry into the lead. The Kingdom seemed to have momentum in their favour but the pendulum swung back in Donegal’s favour thanks to Michael Murphy who fired home a penalty with twenty minutes to go to set-up a nervy finish.
Stephen O’Brien Is Electric
Got the opening score of the game following a strong run in the opening couple of minutes. O’Brien has been in electric form all year for Kerry and could be looking at a maiden All-Star award in 2019.
Michael Murphy Is Inspirational
By no means is this a one-man team but Murphy looks like he plays in every single position. He swept up loose ball, kicked 1-6 and on two occasions was even left one-on-one with David Clifford.
O’Shea’s Vision – Patton’s Save
Clifford’s pass to Geaney last week was worth the entrance fee alone and Seán O’Shea showed today that his vision is also worth the cost of a ticket as he put Clifford through with an eye of the needle type pass.
However, Shaun Patton saved excellently to deny Kerry their goal.
Kerry and Donegal Defence
This Donegal team have killed teams with goals and despite showing some promise in the opening half, Kerry denied them any chance of a highly coveted three-pointer with Gavin Crowley executing a perfect interception to snuff out their only half-chance.
Meanwhile, Donegal were equally adept in defence. Stephen McMenamin spent the majority of the half on Clifford with Caolan Ward and even Murphy tracking the wonder-kid at stages, however, Clifford failed to have the impact he had on last week’s encounter in large part due to Donegal’s disciplined defence.
McMenamin pulled off a fantastic block on Clifford to raise the Donegal noise levels in what was turning into a ding-dong of a battle. At the other end, Tom O’Sullivan kept a close watch on Donegal’s in-form forward, Jamie Brennan, and he produced a fantastic job of shutting down the Bundoran man. O’Sullivan would then saunter forward in the second half to kick his trademark score.
Both number fours must be commended for the job they did on each team’s in-form attacker.
Kerry and Donegal Attack
While Clifford was well marshalled in the opening half, it was Paul Geaney who picked up the slack causing Donegal problems throughout and finish a strong performance with 1-3.
Michael Murphy missed an early free-kick that you would have put the mortgage on him scoring, however, he bounced back well to play in his usual influential role of covering every blade of grass. Made a text-book interception midway through the half that led to a Donegal score, while he demonstrated an array of kick-passing that not many could execute throughout.
His pass into Jamie Brennan to set-up McBrearty on the stroke of half-time was a joy to watch. McBrearty would grow into the game kicking 0-3 in the first half.
Donegal looked in the ascendency in the second half until disaster struck when Geaney pounded on a defensive slip-up to rattle the net and bring the Kerry crowd to life.
Killian Spillane was brought in as a late replacement for Kerry had caused plenty of problems for Donegal as he kicked 0-3 from play.
Oisín Gallen, yet again, provided a spark for Donegal when introduced, kicking a great score and showing excellent hand speed to off-load the ball that led to Donegal’s penalty which was duly dispatched by Murphy on the 52nd minute to bring out the biggest cheer of the day and set-up a barnstorming finish.
It was very nearly a second Donegal goal a minute later but Eoin McHugh was correctly penalised for throwing the ball to the net.
The Grandstand Finish
What a finish!
Both teams traded scores down the home stretch as this one went to the wire. McBrearty nudged Donegal in front from a free before O’Brien kicked his third of the day to level it up.
With five minutes remaining the teams were deadlocked on 1-16 apiece and a draw looked likely.
Clifford finally got the breathing space he wanted from McMenamin to kick Kerry in front again before Michael Langan equalised following a beautiful kick from the right-wing.
A goal looked on for Kerry as the game entered the final minute of normal time but Jason Foley took the sensible option as he ghosted up from corner-back to fist over the bar. Jamie Brennan then missed the target following a poor effort on his left when he had other options, in a moment that really summed up his day.
It was fear not for Donegal though as that man Gallen kicked a beauty to level it up before a botched Kerry kick-out let McHugh set Murphy up to edge Donegal in front. However, it lasted less than a minute as Geaney kicked a score to bring his tally to 1-4 and make it 1-18 to 1-18.
With less than 90 seconds remaining Paul Murphy seemed like the hero for Kerry when he pointed to put them in front, however, Brennan drew a free to leave Murphy with the chance to level the game up with virtually the last kick of the ball.
Shane Ryan; Jason Foley, Tadhg Morley, Tom O’Sullivan; Paul Murphy, Gavin Crowley, Gavin White (c); Shane Enright, Diarmuid O’Connor; Adrian Spillane, Séan O’Shea, Killian Spillane; David Clifford, Paul Geaney, Stephen O’Brien.
Paul Geaney 1-4, Sean O’Shea 0-4, Stephen O’Brien 0-3, Killian Spillane 0-3, David Clifford 0-2, Paul Murphy 0-1, Tom O’Sullivan 0-1.
Jonathan Lyne for Gavin White (bc), Jack Sherwood for Diarmuid O’Connor, Mark Griffin for Shane Enright, Graham O’Sullivan for Gavin Crowley, Micheál Burns for Adrian Spillane, Tomás Ó Sé for Killian Spillane.
Shaun Patton; Odhrán McFadden Ferry, Eamonn Doherty, Stephen McMenamin; Ryan McHugh, Caolan Ward, Eoin McHugh; Hugh McFadden, Jason McGee; Ciarán Thompson, Niall O’Donnell, Jamie Brennan, Patrick McBrearty, Michael Murphy (c), Michael Langan.
Michael Murphy 1-8, Patrick McBrearty 0-5, Oisín Gallen 0-2, Michael Langan 0-2, Ryan McHugh 0-2, Jason McGee 0-1, Niall O’Donnell 0-1, Eoin McHugh 0-1.
Daire Ó Baoill for Jason McGee, Oisín Gallen for Niall O’Donnell, Frank McGlynn for Hugh McFadden, Paul Brennan for Eamonn Doherty, Brendan McCole for Odhrán McFadden Ferry, Leo McLoone for Ciarán Thompson.