Geaney goals give assured looking Kerry a rare opening day National League victory
NFL Division 1, Round 1
Plenty to admire in Kerry's more convincing than the scoreline suggests win over Donegal in Letterkenny, so much so in fact that it was hard for Eamonn Fitzmaurice and David Moran to talk down what was a rare round one League win.
Donegal 1-17 Kerry 2-17
Yes, a late surge from the hosts trimmed a nine-point Kerry lead in the 57th minute to just three at the final whistle, but there was scant danger of the visitors throwing this one away. Even had Maurice Deegan not waved away Hugh McFadden's 68th minute penalty appeal, and Michael Murphy had converted his second spot kick of the match to make it a three-point game than, it's reasonable to think Kerry would have held out for the remaining five minutes.
Or maybe they wouldn't, and Donegal's late momentum would have earned them something from the contest, but that's all hypothetical now as Kerry won their first match of a National League campaign since 2012 - and the first round one win of the Fitzmaurice managerial era.
The corresponding fixture twelve months ago in Tralee was marred by ugly scenes of off the ball fighting, but last Sunday's only black spot was the fourth minute injury to Shane Enright. The Kerry defender had to be hospitalised for concussion after an accidental collision with Michael Murphy, but the Tarbert man was given the all clear on his return to Tralee on Sunday night.
Enright's misfortune became Jack Barry's opportunity and the Na Gaeil man took it, quite literally, with both hands as he put in a fine display in the middle of the field. It was a good day, too, for Barry's fellow League debutants, Jason Foley, Tom O'Sullivan and Jack Savage, with the latter scoring two points from play and a free, while O'Sullivan was an excellent attacking outlet down the left wing, scoring a 35th minute point to underline a superb debut.
Tadhg Morley, who played Championship last season, was also making his League debut and acquitted himself well also, even if he was overshadowed by David Moran alongside and to an extent, Barry also.
Making a rare appearance together on a National League team, Paul Geaney and James O'Donoghue combined to devastating effect in the full forward line, scoring 2-5 from play between them, with Geaney's goals either side of the break giving Kerry the platform to win a game that will have pleased the management on many fronts.
Donnchadh Walsh got Kerry off the mark first with a first minute point before Patrick McBrearty - Donegal's liveliest forward on the day - replied in the third minute. Enright's game-ending injury occurred as McBrearty scored that point and after a five-minute hold-up play resumed with Kerry looking a little more potent and incisive.
Savage snaffled two points in the 13th and 16th minutes before Barry stole in behind the Donegal defence and blazed over the bar when he might have kept his shot lower.
McBrearty won a free off Killian Young, which Micheal Murphy converted, but overall Young kept McBrearty well shackled and limited to just a handful of meaningful plays.
Donegal ran some good angles in the opening 20 minutes and one of those incisive forays saw centre back Martin O'Reilly fouled by David Moran for a penalty, which was precisely despatched by Murphy to make it 1-2 to 0-4.
Kerry's response was swift and emphatic. From the kickout the ball was moved from Barry to Savage to Geaney who slipped a low shot past Mark Anthony McGinley to restore Kerry's lead.
It was the perfect riposte to Donegal's goal and flicked a switch in both teams with contrasting effect as points from Donnchadh Walsh, Jams O'Donoghue, Tom O'Sullivan, Jonathan Lyne, David Moran and two from Paul Geaney catapulted the visitors into a 1-11 to 1-5 half-time lead.
McBrearty (free) and Chris Thompson points early in the second have gave Donegal cause for hope but O'Donoghue fired back with two fine scores, and when Geaney found the net again in the 44th minute Kerry's 2-14 to 1-8 lead looked unassailable.
Kerry still led by nine points, 2-17 to 1-11, after 57 minutes but thereafter they eased up while Donegal found an extra gear as they looked to take something positive from the contest.
Points from Thompson, McBrearty (free) and Ryan McHugh cut the margin to six by the 634th minute, and four minutes later McFadden went to ground in the Kerry square but referee Deegan wasn't convinced. Conor Gibbons snatched a point in the ensuing play, and when Darrach O'Connor made it a four-point game after 70 minutes it made for a slightly uncomfortable three additional minutes for Kerry.
The visitors finsihed with 14 minutes after Jack Barry was black-carded for a deliberate pull down on Murphy who converted a late free but there was no time for Donegal to hunt an equalising goal.
Kerry: B Kelly; J Foley, M Griffin, S Enright; P Crowley, K Young, T O'Sullivan (0-1); D Moran (0-1), T Morley; J Lyne (0-1), P Murphy (0-1), D Walsh (0-2); J Savage (0-3, 1f), P Geaney (2-4, 0-2f), J O'Donoghue (0-3). Subs: J Barry for Enright (inj, 8), M Geaney for Lyne (48), BJ Keane for O'Donoghue (53), Brendan O'Sullivan for Murphy (57), C Geaney for Savage (60), Barry O'Sullivan for Walsh (66), Barry (black, 73 - not replaced).
Donegal: MA McGinley; P McGrath, C Ward, E Gallagher; F McGlynn, R McHugh (0-1), P Brennan (0-1); H McFadden, J McGee; M O'Reilly (0-1), M Langan, C Thompson (0-3); P McBrearty (0-4, 3f), M Murphy (1-3, 1-0 pen, 3f), J Brennan. Subs: E McHugh (0-1) for McGlynn (26), C Gibbons (0-1) for Langan (39), D O'Connor (0-2) for J Brennan (47), E Doherty for McGrath (inj, 49), E O'Donnell 5 for O'Reilly (inj, 57), S McBrearty for McFadden (60).
Referee: M Deegan (Laois)
The Game in 60 seconds
Paul Geaney's 2-2 from play (2-5 in total) makes him an obvious candidate and David Moran brought all his skill and experience to bear, but under the circumstances of making his League debut against an aggressive team, TOM O'SULLIVAN was excellent as a attacking wing-back who belied his age and inexperience with a super performance
Kerry and Paul Geaney's first goal, a minute after Donegal's converted penalty, was the perfect response to that green flag. It immediately arrested any Donegal momentum and laid the platform for Kerry to outscore the hosts 0-7 to 0-3 for the rest of the half.
Shane Enright's early injury clearly had players and officials concerned for his well-being but medical attention was swift and the Tarbert man was correctly transferred to hospital for assessment after suffering concussion. Thankfully he was able to return to Tralee on Sunday night and was given the all clear in Kerry University Hospital.