Kerry repel late Donegal rally for first opening round win under Eamonn Fitzmaurice
Kerry 2-17 Donegal 1-17
A first opening league win in Eamonn Fitzmaurice's five-year Kerry management saw the visitors survive some anxious moments late on in O'Donnell Park in Letterkenny against an experimental Donegal.
Kerry looked to be cruising when the outstanding David Moran and Donnchadh Walsh combined to send in Paul Geaney for his second goal in the 44th minute to establish a nine-point (2-14 to 1-8) lead.
That lead stretched to 10 points by the 54th minute but with Kerry making changes and Donegal really driving on in the last quarter the gap was just that Geaney goal at the finish.
After losses to Dublin and Mayo (twice each) in their opening games over the last four years Fitzmaurice will be pleased to be up and running so early in February.
And there was plenty to enthuse about as Geaney, James O'Donoghue and Jack Savage hit 2-10 between them in the full-forward line.
Moran was completely dominant at midfield but the concession of 1-17 will be a concern.
Kerry started smartly, despite losing Shane Enright to injury after he was involved in a heavy fourth-minute collision with Michael Murphy that necessitated removal by stretcher and a five-minute delay.
When play resumed the visitors went 0-4 to 0-2 ahead but Marty O'Reilly, probably Donegal's best player, left the cover for dead in the 22nd minute before being dragged down for a penalty which Michael Murphy converted for a brief one-point lead (1-2 to 0-4).
Kerry's response was swift with James O'Donoghue and substitute Jack Barry combining to send in Paul Geaney for a goal at the other end.
With Barry playing a big part at midfield - Tadhg Morley dropped to defence to cover for Enright - alongside a dominant David Moran the traffic began to flow one way as an experimental Donegal side began to struggle.
There could have been more Kerry goals but they kept picking of points registering all 12 scores in the first half from play as they led by 1-11 to 1-5 at the interval.
Eoin McHugh, Murphy and Ciaran Thompson were behind late pressure that brought Donegal respectability.
Kerry's Jack Barry was black-carded in the last minute.
Scorers - P Geaney 2-4 (0-2fs), J O'Donoghue, J Savage (1f) 0-3 each, D Walsh 0-2, J Barry, P Murphy, T O'Sullivan, J Lyne, D Moran all 0-1 each
Donegal: M Murphy 1-3 (1-0 pen, 0-3fs), P McBrearty 0-4 (3fs), C Thompson 0-3, D O'Connor 0-2, R McHugh, P Brennan, M O'Reilly, E McHugh, C Gibbons all 0-1 each.
Kerry: B Kelly; J Foley, M Griffin, S Enright; P Crowley. K Young, T O'Sullivan; D Moran, T Morley; J Lyne, P Murphy, D Walsh; J Savage, P Geaney, J O'Donoghue. 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).
Donegal: MA McGinley; P MCGrath, C Ward, E 'Ban' Gallagher; F McGlynn, R McHugh, P Brennan; H McFadden, J McGee; M O'Reilly, M Langan, C Thompson; P McBrearty, M Murphy, J Brennan. Subs: E McHugh for McGlynn (26), C Gibbons for Langan (39), D O'Connor for J Brennan (47), E Doherty for McGrath inj (49), E O'Donnell for O'Reilly inj (57), S McBrearty for McFadden (60).
Referee: Maurice Deegan (Laois).