Eugene McGee: Naked venom from Donegal and Kerry was nothing short of disgraceful
Lots of people from the other provinces complain about the quality of football that is played in Ulster. They say it is too rough, often unsporting, negative and the like.
Well if that is true yesterday in the excellently revamped Austin Stack Park in Tralee we could be forgiven for believing we were in Clones, Omagh or Armagh because what we had to endure in the first half of this Division 1 game was nothing less than disgraceful.
Remember now that we were watching two of the best four teams in Ireland at the moment, Kerry and Donegal. We watched shoals of All-Stars, nationally known football icons and allegedly the sort of people all young players should aspire to emulate and copy, God help us.
Hard to know why there was such naked venom from the moment the game started but it seems each team wanted to set a marker that they would not be surrendering by hook or by crook, and sadly it was mostly by crook for a lot of the first half.
Two red cards, several black and yellow ones but luckily one of the best referees around was on duty, otherwise we might have witnessed more disgraceful behaviour than we actually got.
Eventually the game settled into something like a game that did justice to the football skills of two teams both of whom have won All-Irelands in recent years but there was always an edge of nastiness that never really went away.
Bryan Sheehan's frees were the key factor in Kerry recording this crucial victory along with the superb goal scored by Peter Crowley in the 43rd minute after Donegal had levelled the scores when assisted by the strong wind.
That seemed to soften Donegal's cough because they only managed two scores - a goal and point from Michael Murphy - in the remaining 30 minutes of play.
Kerry on the other hand took fire in the best sense and demoralised their opponents by scoring six points in the rest of the game.
I suspect that Donegal came to Tralee intent on being regarded as the second best team in Ireland, a position Kerry presently hold and maybe that is why they forget their discipline and paid a very high price for that. Kerry themselves were very lacking in discipline for most of the game but a win like this covers a multitude of sins and their fans will have gone home happy after ending Donegal's unbeaten League run.
Donnchadh Walsh was outstanding for Kerry because of his sheer work-rate in very demanding conditions, and bearing in mind the often over-the-top physical battles that featured rabbit punches, verbal assaults and anything else you care to mention among the darker arts of football nowadays.
But this was a game that Kerry will have gained a lot more from than the precious two League points at stake. The high octane level of the activity, good and bad, in this game will have brought Kerry forward quite a bit after their early season slumbers.
Several new players made big impressions and as always a few veterans like Sheehan, Aidan O'Mahony and Kieran Donaghy showed leadership that was vital in the more tempestuous periods of the game and especially when it was there to be won in the final quarter.
For Donegal there is the worrying factor that unless Murphy wins the hard games for them they could be in trouble, and they seem to need him at both midfield and full-forward.
There had been much talk of brilliant newcomers this year but they never made an impression remotely to compare with Murphy's in this game. It looks as if the older players will still be the key men in 2016 as Neil Gallagher showed when he came on for the second half.
Footnote: Because of a technical problem beyond my capability to sort out I realised I had received no emails from this column's address (email@example.com) for many months. Thankfully that has been resolved and emails have resumed. I would like to apologise to people who have sent emails in the past that failed to arrive but normal service has resumed.