Allianz FL D1: Kerry edge thriller
Allianz Football League Division One
KERRY 2-18 DONEGAL 3-14
By Paul Brennan at Fitzgerald Stadium, Killarney
A youthful Kerry team fashioned a character-building victory against Donegal getting the Kingdom's title defence off to a winning start.
New Donegal manager Declan Bonner will also take plenty of positives back up north, not least the resolve his team showed after going a man down after 20 minutes, when Nathan Mullins was red carded following an off the incident with Brendan O'Sullivan.
That left Donegal an uphill battle for the next 55 or so minutes, but their McKenna Cup match practice stood to them against a Kerry team that handed out eight senior team debuts, including five on the starting team. Darach O'Connor's 72nd minute goal looked to have snatched victory for the visitors, but Daithi Casey found the winning point in the sixth minute of additional time to get Kerry's title defence off on a winning footing.
With much of the drama coming in the last 10 minutes, the first half had plenty of talking points too, not least Mullins' red card, which came two minutes after Donegal were forced to replace injured goalkeeper Mark Anthony McGinley, and a minute after his replacement, Peter Boyle, was beaten by Stephen O'Brien's close range finish after being set up by David Clifford.
Last year's minor hero Clifford endured a tough baptism of senior football, on a day when another teenager, Sean O'Shea, marked his senior debut by kicking seven points, with three from play.
Paddy McBrearty carried the scoring threat on the other side and the Kilcar man fashioned two great scores before the break to make it 1-8 to 0-8, at half time.
Tony McClenaghan's goal a minute after the restart brought Donegal right back into the contest, and for the next 40 minutes the lead changed hands several time as Donegal's 14 men competed brilliantly.
Stephen McBrearty pointed Donegal into a 1-12 to 1-11 lead after 48 minutes, and when Odhran MacNiallais finished to the net 10 minutes later to make it 2-13 to 1-13 Donegal's momentum and self-belief looked as if would carry the day.
Paul Geaney had slashed his penalty kick over the bar in the 55th minute, which looked a costly miss, but when he tapped in for a goal in the 60th minute it was game on again.
Late points from O'Brien, O'Shea and Killian Spillane put Kerry two clear before Darach O'Connor, on as a substitute mere seconds, broke clear and looked to have won the points for Declan Bonner's side with a coolly finished goal.
McClenaghan and Gavin Crowley were dismissed for second yellow cards before Sean O'Shea converted a 45-metre free to level matters and then Casey burst through to kick the winner for Kerry in front of almost 11,000 spectators.
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).