Kerry and Donegal can't be separated after serving up Croker classic in Super 8s
Cool as ice, Michael Murphy landed a pressure free after five minutes of injury-time had elapsed to secure a draw for Donegal in a thrilling Super 8s match with Kerry in Croke Park. Both teams remain unbeaten heading into the final phase in a fortnight’s time. Kerry looked to have won with a Paul Murphy point four minutes into added time, until Murphy brought his tally to 1-7 for the day from a free won by Jamie Brennan, capping another monumental Murphy performance.
He had able assistance from Ryan McHugh who was outstanding and young Oisin Gallen came off the bench to kick two vital scores, another player with ice in his veins, but Kerry had some spellbinding moments and Paul Geaney finished with 1-4, his companions Stephen O’Brien and Killian Spillane each kicking three. David Clifford had a quiet first half but landed two late scores which kept Kerry ticking over.
Donegal head to Castlebar for the final round against Mayo, who won the curtain-raiser against Meath. Kerry face Meath, who are out of the championship following a second defeat earlier in the day.
In greasy underfoot conditions this match lit up the Super 8s with an abundance of wonderful scores, a contest deadlocked 15 times and with never more than two points separating the teams.
In such a tight match goals were going to prove critical and Kerry looked to have gained a significant advantage when Geaney scored the first in the 44th minute to lead 1-11 to 0-12. Before the goal two huge 50m frees from Murphy put Donegal ahead after they trailed Kerry for much of the first half. But those leads were momentary; the teams were tied six times before the interval, at which stage Kerry were a point clear.
Geaney’s second half goal saw him nip in and take possession after Donegal carelessly lost the ball, the Kerry forward quickly making ground and then rifling a shot past Shaun Patton. But the outstanding McHugh then set up Gallen to reply immediately, quickly answered by one from Tom O’Sullivan at the other end.
In the 53rd minute Donegal scored their goal through a Murphy penalty, struck low to the keeper’s right, after Daire O Baoill was fouled by O’Brien. The goal briefly restored Donegal’s lead, 1-14 to 1-13.
From the next play, pressurising the Kerry kick out, Donegal broke forward and a succession of passes, the last from Frank McGlynn, offered Eoin McHugh a goal chance but he caught the ball and then threw it, needing to simply pat the ball to the net. Sean O’Shea soon levelled the teams approaching the hour mark.
Donegal went back in front through Murphy, before the impressive Killian Spillane kicked his third point to level them once more. The score kept changing in a thrilling finale but a draw was a justifiable outcome for neither deserved to lose. In injury time Kerry substitute Tomas O Se was red carded after coming only a minute earlier.
Kerry held a 0-10 to 0-9 lead at half time, O’Shea’s third converted free nudging them in front in injury time after Donegal had hauled themselves level.
Missing three experienced defenders in Neil McGee, Paddy McGrath and Eoghan Ban Gallagher, they were under pressure at times, with Kerry’s movement creating gaps. The teams were level at 0-2 a piece when Clifford was denied a goal by Patton after a defence-splitting pass by O’Shea. Clifford kicked off his right but Patton rushed out from goal and smothered the shot.
In the 26th minute there was another let-off. Patton was less impressive on this occasion when breaking the ball in an area heavy with Kerry traffic and when Geaney gained possession he had goal in his mind. But Ryan McHugh did superbly in shadowing him and eventually his shot was hurried and high, a point the result.
Geaney finished the first half with three points and won the last free scored by O’Shea, while O’Brien kicked two after incisive runs, but Clifford was well marshalled. In one key moment his attempted point effort off his left was brilliantly blocked by Stephen McMenamin and from the counter-attack, Donegal scored a marvellous point, Murphy applying the finish in the 25th minute to tie the match at six points each.
They suffered a blow when losing Niall O’Donnell to a first half black card which did not look merited. Shortly before Kerry had lost Gavin White to a black card for dragging down McHugh.
This was only the third ever championship meeting between the counties, the most recent being the 2014 All-Ireland final won by Kerry. Donegal won the only other encounter in the All-Ireland quarter finals two years earlier before going on to win the Sam Maguire. They head into the final phase with a semi final place still very much in their sights.
Scorers: Donegal - M Murphy 1-7 (0-4 fs, 1-0 pen), P McBrearty 0-5 (0-3 fs); R McHugh, O Gallen, M Langan 0-2; J McGee, N O’Donnell 0-1. Kerry - P Geaney 1-4; S O Shea 0-4 (0-3 fs), S O’Brien, K Spillane 0-3, D Clifford 0-2 (0-1 f), T O’Sullivan, J Foley, P Murphy 0-1.
Donegal: S Patton; O McFadden Ferry, E Doherty, S McMenamin; R McHugh, C Ward, E McHugh; H McFadden, J McGee; C Thompson, N O’Donnell, J Brennan; P McBrearty, M Murphy, M Langan.
Subs: D O Baoill for J McGee (inj 24 mins); O Gallen for O’Donnell (b/c 37); F McGlynn for H McFadden (inj 38); P Brennan for Doherty (47); B McCole for McFadden-Ferry (63); L McLoone for Thompson (70).
Kerry: S Ryan; J Foley, T Morley, T O’Sullivan; P Murphy, G Crowley, G White; S Enright, D O’Connor; A Spillane, S O’Shea, K Spillane; D Clifford, P Geaney, S O’Brien.
Subs: J Lyne for White (b/c 34 mins); J Sherwood for O’Connor (44); M Griffin for Enright (56); G O’Sullivan for Crowley (63); M Burns for A Spillane (68); T O Se for K Spillane (73).
Referee: P Neilan (Roscommon).