Kerry beat Donegal in a game which surpassed our expectations

March 17th, 2015
by Weeshie Fogarty

I have often mentioned here how I believed  Kerry footballers are more skillful and so at ease when in possession of the ball than all other counties, well we have won more All Irelands than all others so there most be some semblance of truth in this statement.  One magnificent passage of play which occurred midway during the first half of a cracking national league match last Sunday between Kerry and Donegal once again emphasized if proof is needed that most Kerry players posses all the skills of the game.

Anthony Maher who had a superb outing and continues to develop as a top class midfielder latched on to a ball in his own half. A quick look up as he delivered a pin point foot pass to Stephen o Brien, the Kenmare lad also getting better as he gets fitter set off on a dashing solo run into the heart of the Donegal defence. Arriving on the edge of the big square Stephen quickly hand passed to his captain Kieran Donaghy who then in a split second transferred to Johnny Buckley. All of this was happening in the blink of an eye as the big Northern defenders scrambled back to halt the movement.

Johnny Buckley had a magnificent day out, one of his best ever in a Kerry jersey, now in possession he was angling for a point whilst surrounded by Donegal men, unable to get a shot at goals he gave a little bit of a shimmy, sold a dummy and passed off to Brian Sheehan, all of this happened in a split second, the Caherceiveen man without even thinking it appeared fisted the ball over the bar from near the end line and another white flag was raised. Wonderful natural skill, quick thinking, brilliant movement and each player so comfortable and easy on the ball. Kerry football at its very best.

It was a mesmerizing passage of play from Kerry, one of the many we witnessed in a game that surpassed our expectations. We had been expecting total defence from Donegal as is their tradition enforced on them by Jim McGuinness.  But it was end to end stuff and of course both sides did defend in dept at times however like it or not that is the way of the game to day and Kerry can play it whatever way is asked of them.

It was a massive improvement from the Cork hammering the previous Sunday. There was a spring in the Kerry step, players were anxious for the ball, that dead tired jaded look was gone as valuable points were gained to set Eamon Fitzmaurice's men up for a national league semi final place.  Their destiny is now in their own hands.  And the afore mentioned improvement was badly needed because this Donegal side pushed the home team to the very limit and indeed only for shooting three very poor wides after half time would have been much closer during those hectic closing minutes.

The free kicking displays of both Brian Sheehan and Michael Murphy were one of the highlights of the afternoon. We were privileged to see the two men give an immaculate demonstration of one of the dying skill of the game as they lofted over frees taken from the ground from all angles and distances.  Brian Sheehan with four massive free kicks and two points from play was heading for a man-of-match performance before he was forced to retire with what appeared to be a rib injury.

Mark Griffin was outstanding at full back and credit to the selectors for persevering with the South Kerry man as he continues to grow into the number three position.  Killian Young and Jonathan Lyne have settled nicely into the number five and seven jerseys as the selectors continue to rotate the defenders giving every man an opportunity to stake a permanent place. It's proving to be a very productive league campaign.

Would Kerry have won the All Ireland last year without Kieran Donaghy?  Remember he set up the goal for that semi-final draw with Mayo, scored one in the re-play and the crucial goal in the final. His influence last Sunday was massive and his contribution and value to the side must not be overlooked. One again his great height and sheer determination to gain possession around the Donegal square caused all sorts of problems for the visitors and he was directly responsible for both goals in that second half.

In the 45th minute despite having his right hand held the captain got his left hand to the ball, broke it out, Paul Geaney robbed Neil McGee, and showed great vision to set up the very industrious Barry John Keane for that punched goal which set Kerry on their winning way.  Then came the penalty and once again Donaghy rose high to get a fist to the ball, it finished up with Paul o Donoghue, he was grounded and David Moran's resultant penalty kick low to the corner of the net was as good as I have ever seen.  Yes indeed Star give Kerry amazing options, more so than any other county can boast.  And it was good to see in the first half last Sunday that obsession we saw against Cork of continuous high balls into the big man was not perused to the limit.

But it's at mid field that Kerry are the most dominant of all. David Moran and Anthony Maher were brilliant, one as good as the other. Their work rate in immense, their fielding superb and it was wonderful to see the Kerry tradition of high fielding mid fielders lighting up the lovely crisp March afternoon.  And then you have Johnny Buckley joining them to add his fielding powers to the middle. He was immense. His game is blossoming with every outing as he gets fitter and fitter. He oozes with class and style, beautiful balance, fast hands, and his ability to dispossess the man with the ball is an art in itself.

Of course Eamon Fitzmaurice will not get carried away with this lasts win, he will remember the demoralizing  loss to Cork the previous Sunday and take note of their latest win away to Tyrone. The championship is on the horizon, the Kerry squad is big, Alan Fitzgerald is beginning to stake a place also following two excellent outings as a sub. Colm Cooper, James o Donoghue and Darren o Sullivan will hopefully be back for the championship, the league is serving its purpose, exciting times for Kingdom followers.

Radio Kerry - The Voice of the Kingdom