All-Ireland Championship: Donegal get their reward in late show
Donegal 1-12 Kildare 0-14 (After extra time): If ever proof were needed that sporting romance is alive and well then this match provided it in spades.
It would indeed be difficult to script a more compelling narrative — here was a contest that was in danger of defensive asphyxiation yet ascended to an enthralling climax.
And if the arrival of Jim McGuinness’s side in the last four has injected further intrigue, drama and colour into what is proving an intoxicating All-Ireland series, then the sub-plots that accompanied this latest leg of their pilgrimage have added allure to their spectacular renaissance.
Michael Murphy, the youngest captain in the country at 22, was unable to start because of a tweaked hamstring then plundered two precious injury-time points that stabilised his side.
Then Kevin Cassidy, a 31-year-old veteran recently coaxed out of potential retirement, landed the dramatic winning point with the last kick of the match.
Yet while there was unbridled joy for Donegal, there was savage heartbreak for Kieran McGeeney Kildare.
And on this occasion a particularly harsh decision by referee David Coldrick, when he disallowed what appeared to be a good Kildare goal by Tómas O’Connor in the 40th minute, marked the turning point.
“I thought the boys showed fantastic character. There was no panic even when Kildare went in front, we stuck to our game plan and in the end it paid off for us,” said manager McGuinness.
Yet Donegal’s obsession with safety-first tactics almost proved their downfall.
Two Eoin O’Flaherty points from frees and another from play along with points from Pauric O’Neill and Eamon Callaghan had helped Kildare into their 0-5 to 0-3 interval lead, Patrick McBrearty, Rory Kavanagh and Mark McHugh responding.
Michael Murphy, Ryan Bradley and Dermot Molloy all boomed over points and, when Christy Toye thundered in his 58th minute goal, McGuinness’s men were 1-7 to 0-7 ahead.
But a further brace of O’Flaherty points along with another from James Kavanagh saw deadlock ensue at the end of normal time (1-7 to 0-10).
Ronan Sweeney, Gary White and Alan Smith propelled Kildare into a 0-13 to 1-8 lead at the half-way stage in extra-time.
That was when Donegal’s stamina and courage hit new heights – Murphy (2), Toye and then Cassidy with his fairytale last-second winner.
Donegal: P Durcan; F McGlynn, N McGee, P McGrath, A Thompson, K Lacey (0-1), K Cassidy (0-2), N Gallagher, R Kavanagh (0-1), M McHugh (0-1), M Hegarty, R Bradley (0-2), P McBrearty (0-1), D Walsh, C McFadden. Subs: M Murphy (0-2) for Walsh (26 mins), E McGee for McGrath (26), M McElhinney for Gallagher (half-time), D Molloy (0-1) for Hegarty (41), C Toye (1-1) for McFadden (57). Yellow cards: McHugh (53 mins), Kavanagh (69)
Kildare: S Connolly; A MacLochlainn, M Foley, H McGrillan, B Flanagan, M O’Flaherty, E Bolton, J Doyle, D Flynn, P O’Neill (0-1), E O’Flaherty (0-6, 0-2 frees), E Callaghan (0-1); R Kelly, T O’Connor, J Kavanagh (0-2). Subs: A Smith (0-2) for O’Connor (41 mins), R Sweeney (0-1) for Flanagan (60), O Lyons for MacLochlainn (61), M Conway for O’Neill (64), G White (0-1) for Doyle (73), K Dowling for O’Neill (74). Yellow cards: Flynn (71 mins), Smith (78), Callaghan (79), Doyle (83), Flanagan (87).
Referee: David Coldrick (Meath).