By Peter Nolan
Kerry 2-14, Donegal 0-12
Kerry topped Donegal 2-14 to 0-12 in the first of two high-quality Senior A Football games at Gaelic Park on Sunday. It was a match of momentum swings, with each team dominating for long periods, particularly in the first half.
Donegal scored first from Edmund Cleary’s short free, but the opening quarter belonged to the Kingdom. Kerry corner forward Brian Hickey answered Cleary and first Jamie, and then Bingo O’Driscoll followed up to put Kerry ahead, 0-3 to 0-1. Peter Loughran, the fine young forward, who found himself at the center of so much controversy last season, cut Kerry’s advantage with a pointed free.
But Kerry were quick to reply. Bingo O’Driscoll started a Kerry attack with a well-taken free to brother Jamie, who found Willie O’Donnell, who in turn found the twines. When D.J. Fleming followed with a good point, Kerry led 1-4 to 0-3, and Donegal were in danger of falling out of this match.
Wingback Donal Breslin started Donegal on the road back with a fine point and the momentum began to turn the Ulstermen’s way. Midfielder Pat Walsh took a Loughran pass and pointed from a tough angle, and quickly followed up with a second point. Donegal added three more points on the trot, two from Loughran and one from Martin Coll, to take the lead, 0-8 to 1-4. It would be their last.
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Kerry made a key switch, assigning center half back James Cahillane to the dangerous Loughran. Kerry’s midfield also picked up their performance. Dave Hannify and Dave McSweeney began to get the advantage in this vital sector and Kerry outscored Donegal 0-4 to 0-2 in the run up to half time, behind 0-3 from Bingo O’Driscoll and 0-1 from Fleming. Cleary and Loughran were Donegal’s marksmen and Kerry led 1-8 to 0-10 at the midway point.
Donegal’s management shuffled the lineup a bit, sending Coll to midfield, Paul Higgins to full forward, and Loughran to the 40. Cahillane followed Loughran and Kerry made their move. Bingo O’Driscoll scored the first three points of the half, all from play, twice after combining with his brother.
Tempers began to boil, causing Referee Tommy Fahey to book two Donegal players, Donal Breslin and Niall McCready, and Kerry’s Fleming. McCready, playing full back, pushed forward, laying the ball on to Coll. Coll’s 14th-minute point pulled Donegal within one kick of the ball, 1-11 to 0-11.
Unfortunately for Donegal, wing forward Garreth Kelly was sent to the line after picking up his second yellow card, with a quarter of an hour still to play. Kerry tightened their grip with a point from Fleming and a fantastic long-range score from Bingo O’Driscoll.
Then the Kingdom got the crusher, as Willie O’Donnell banged home his second goal after a great Kerry passing movement started by man of the match, Bingo O’Driscoll.
This loss leaves Donegal in a bit of trouble at 1-2. It’s not panic time yet, but Donegal will need to get back on the winning track soon. Kerry are sitting pretty at 2-1 after this deserved victory.
Man of the Match: Bingo O’Driscoll.
Kerry: Finbarr Flood, Enda Kavanagh, Paul Galligan, Paul Dillon, Paddy O’Connor, James Cahillane, Ronan O’Connor, Dave Hannify, Dave McSweeney , Bingo O’Driscoll (0-8), Jamey O’Driscoll (0-1), Seamus O’Sullivan (0-1), Brian Hickey (0-1), D.J. Fleming (0-3), Willie O’Donnell (2-0).
Donegal: Eunan Doherty, Darren Rocks, Niall McCready, Barney McDermott, Donal Breslin (0-1), Pat McGonigle, Mark McNeill, Pat Walsh (0-2), Paul Higgins, Garreth Kelly, Martin Coll (0-2), Anton Diver, Ed Cleary (0-2), Peter Loughran (0-5), Kieran Keavney.