By Peter Nolan
A beautiful day at Gaelic Park got off to a flying start as Kerry saw off Donegal’s challenge, 2-11 to 1-9, in an entertaining Junior A football match Sunday.
It looked like it would be Donegal’s day early as the Ulster men opened strong. Leslie McGettigan scored first with a free and then he sprang midfielder Garreth Kelly with a fine crossing pass that Kelly collected and hammered home. Donegal ran out to a 1-3 to 0-1 advantage after just 10 minutes with Kerry’s point coming from a Barry Clifford free. Midfielder Kelly was dominant in the early stages, cleaning up in the center of the park.
Kerry noticed and brought Miley O’Connell out from full forward to provide some strength, while Louis Holland stayed put on Kelly. Kerry slowly turned the tide, however, pecking away at Donegal’s lead. Clifford and Owen Mackey each contributed a brace for the Kingdom as they pulled to within 0-1, 1-3 to 0-5, in the closing stages of the half. But Donegal regained the initiative and closed the half strong with a 0-4 to 0-1 flourish, taking a 1-7 to 0-6 interval lead.
Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter
Kerry made a nice pick up after Longford’s demise, adding Barry Kavanagh and immediately installed him at center halfback. Kavanagh and Kerry signaled their intentions right from the second-half throw-in as Kavanagh sent Barry Clifford in for a point directly from the restart.
Kerry kept the pressure on with Miley O’Connell providing the impetus from his midfield position. Substitute Tim Foley smartly fisted over, before Gerald McCabe of Donegal and Owen Mackey of Kerry traded points.
Then the match turned on a mixup in the Donegal square. Andy O’Connor lofted a long free goalward and the Chief and his backs couldn’t get their signals straight, with the ball ending up in the Donegal net.
The momentum had now swung Kerry’s way and Donegal could not reverse it. Donegal had some good chances, the best of which saw Kerry keeper John Fogarty rob Leslie McGettigan, although Donegal salvaged a point when Pauric Rooney pointed the rebound.
Fullback Monty Meehan kept Donegal’s diminishing hopes alive when he made a diving stop of substitute J.J. O’Sullivan’s goal-bound blast, with the Chief off his line. Donegal were missing Gerry Kelly, who was injured last time out, and they could have used his confident presence as Kerry pulled away. But Kerry now had the upper hand and kept the pressure on until Tim Foley, switched from his starting corner back spot to wing forward, rifled home a clinching goal.
Man of the match: Andy O’Connor.
Kerry: John Fogarty, Tim Foley (1-0), Timmy Lynch, Pat O’Driscoll, Adrian Finn, Barry Kavanagh, John Kissane, Louis Holland, Andy O’Connor (1-1), Cormac O’Connor, Owen Mackey (0-3), Paudi Mulvihill, Dean Doherty, Miley O’Connell (0-1), Barry Clifford (0-4). Subs: J.J. Sullivan (0-1), Timmy Foley (0-1).
Donegal: Frank Molloy, Pat McGill, Marty Meehan, Nial McClafferty, Pauric Rooney, Keith Nolan, John Mason, Garreth Kelly (1-1), Sean Campbell, Sean McCabe, Gerald McCabe (0-2), Anton Diver (0-1), Liam Gallagher (0-1), Leslie McGettigan (0-3), Willie McBride, Adrian Fogarty. Subs: Connie Molloy, Rory McCabe, Pauric Rooney (0-1).