McGuinness refuses to panic with Donegal '30pc' off best
Kildare 2-14 Donegal 1-13
Published 04/02/2013 | 04:00
It is quite probable that both managers got what they wanted out of the first outing of the 2013 league campaign.
Kildare and Kieran McGeeney procured two points that will make all the difference in early April – "gold dust" in the words of the manager – and further evidence that the fast-tracking of young players into the team shouldn't be delayed.
The suggestion that they can't beat top teams when it matters may also have been put to bed here, as in their last two games they've turned over the All-Ireland champions of the previous two years.
But Jim McGuinness can also be fairly satisfied with the night's work. Donegal lost by four points, down "30pc" of the fitness levels that brought them All-Ireland glory last summer, according to their manager.
A John Doyle punt for a point that was misread by Paul Durcan, normally rock solid in such situations, crept in off the Donegal goalkeeper on 64 minutes to give the Lilywhites a cushion they'd never relinquish.
By that stage Colm McFadden and Frank McGlynn had joined Neil Gallagher and Paddy McGrath on the sidelines and Mark McHugh wasn't quite himself after a three-month lay-off.
Given McGuinness' post-match fitness critique, losing by just four points in a game of this nature is hardly a disaster.
Only three of the last 10 All-Ireland winners have won their first game of the following year's league. Donegal's ambition, quite clearly, is survival, as McGuinness admitted afterwards.
"From the summer our fitness is probably 65 or 70pc. There is probably 30pc there to find, but it's not something to get overly carried away with. We want to get enough points to stay in the division," he admitted.
Michael Murphy's brilliance was another plus for Donegal, given how he always seemed to be playing catch-up last summer after early season injuries, until, of course, September, when he really exploded.
There was a touch of magic in the way he came to meet Paddy McBrearty's botched free that was spinning into oblivion before Murphy reached to punch it over. He scored nine points, four from play, and made tackles and driving runs all night.
Much of the headway they made into Kildare's 1-10 to 0-6 lead after 44 minutes – they got to within a point over the next 20 minutes – was down to their captain, hailed by his manager afterwards for the leadership he showed among what was a young Donegal attack.
But Kildare were able to kick on again, the youthful enthusiasm of Niall Kelly, Daniel Flynn and Paddy Brophy and the guile of Doyle providing impetus, with Tommy O'Connor also causing major problems with his ability to chase down just about every lost cause. Kelly is only 18, but in the last two games he has shown composure beyond his years.
His left-footed point after Dermot Molloy scrambled home Donegal's goal in swift response to Doyle's maximum, reflected a player with an impressive temperament – as did his subsequent assist for Eoghan O'Flaherty's insurance point.
McGeeney acknowledged as much, but preached caution.
"They know themselves they're going to have to keep their feet on the ground," he said. "This is February and although it's nice to get slaps on the back, the real things are given out in the summer.
"We showed a wee bit of character at different times, but were a bit sloppy at times too and maybe should have been a bit more comfortable."
Man of the Match: M Murphy (Donegal)
Scorers – Kildare: J Doyle 1-5, T O'Connor 1-0, N Kelly 0-3, M Conway 0-2 (2f), B Flanagan, P O'Neill, P Brophy, E O'Flaherty 0-1 each. Donegal: M Murphy 0-9 (5f), D Molloy 1-1, P McBrearty 0-2 (1f), M McHugh 0-1.
Kildare – S Connolly 7; O Lyons 7, P Kelly 6, H McGrillen 7; M Conway 8, M Foley 6, E Bolton 7; G White 7, P O,Neill 7; D Flynn, N Kelly 8, B Flanagan 7; S Johnston 5, T O'Connor 7, J Doyle 8. Subs: P Brophy 7 for Johnston (55), E Doyle 6 for Bolton (59), E O'Flaherty for White (62).
Donegal – P Durcan 6; D Walsh 6, N McGee 6, E McGee 6; F McGlynn 7, L McLoone 7, A Thompson 7; R Kavanagh 7, M McElhinney 7; M Boyle 5, M Murphy 9, R Bradley 7; C McFadden, R Wherity 6, P McBrearty 7. Subs: D Molloy 7 for McFadden (13), M McHugh 6 for Boyle (31), D McLoughlin 6 for McGlynn (h-t).
Ref – C Reilly (Meath)