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Kerry show no mercy as brave Donegal are out-played

Donegal 0-12 Kerry 2-09

By Declan Bogue

Just like that, everything Donegal had built up about their 'system' was ripped from them as Kerry made it All-Ireland Championship, number 37.

How did Eamonn Fitzmaurice do it? By leaning on Donegal, the hype and mythology built up around them and seeing this sporting contest in very clear terms.

What where Donegal good at? How do we minimise that? What are we good at? How do we maximise it.

In Kerry, they leave it to others to create Wikipedia pages entitled 'The System' that explains how one football team plays a defensive game. For them, the old expression of 'Hammer the hammer' still holds true.

To do that, they hunted down Donegal's big game. Michael Murphy was hounded out of matters. He only touched the ball seven times in the first half which was mainly spent in midfield.

In the second half, he put hand to leather 10 times and his influence was greatly diminished by the marking job of Aidan O'Mahony, a man Fitzmaurice revealed is always posting the highest scores in the fitness tests, giving lie to concerns about his ability to stick with Murphy in open play.

Yet, that exact figure matches the number of plays Murphy had against Dublin, one of his finest hours.

Odhran MacNiallais came in flagged up, but was withdrawn after Killian Young ran him ragged by 51 minutes. Ryan McHugh, bullied out of it by Paul Murphy, was on the pine six minutes earlier. Colm McFadden was once again held scoreless from play. Neil Gallagher was not his overbearing self and Frank McGlynn and Anthony Thompson showed nothing of their old zing.

In a game played on these terms, any goals were going to be everything. Kerry had possibly the fastest All-Ireland final goal of all. On 46 seconds, Stephen O'Brien hoisted the kind of high ball in you might expect Kieran Donaghy and Eamonn McGee to be standing under. Instead it was Paul Geaney, isolated on Paddy McGrath and he managed to control it and roll it past Paul Durcan.

Kerry were getting joy off the high ball to Geaney and after only four minutes, Jim McGuinness switched McGlynn onto the Dingle man, who created a point for Donaghy and clipped over a free by 12 minutes.

Donegal wore down the lead as Kerry tried a number of different attacking ploys. James O'Donoghue sacrificed his own shooting game – indeed he was to end scoreless – but he was a willing outlet in attack.

Meanwhile, Michael Murphy with three and Colm McFadden's single brought one point between the two sides, but they were all free kicks, some of them more dubious than others as referee Eddie Kinsella awarded an astonishing tally of 10 to one frees in favour of Donegal for the opening half.

Geaney almost had another goal as Kerry persisted with an aerial bombardment.

O'Donoghue was running the channels and floated a cross in that Geaney caught, dummied past the first challenge and let fly only for the ball to fly over the crossbar.

Yet for all their enterprise it felt like a grim inevitability as Donegal closed out the half on level terms with points from MacNiallais and Karl Lacey.

Murphy put Donegal ahead for the first time when he won a Kerry kickout two minutes after the break, gave it to Leo McLoone who spilled it, only for Murphy to clean it up and point. Paul Murphy wiped it out instantly.

Then, the big one. Paul Durcan addressed a kickout, seemed caught in two minds and set it gloriously into the path of Kieran Donaghy. It was returned to the net in a flash to open up a four-point gap.

By this stage, Paddy McBrearty was on the field and quickly fired over two points before Fitzmaurice replaced his marker Fionn Fitzgerald with Shane Enright who enjoyed greater fortune.

When Kerry pushed up on Donegal's kickout, Durcan went long with seven kickouts in the second half. Kerry cleaned up every single one. But then, the genetic skills and decision-making kicked in.

Johnny Buckley kicked a score from distance that settled a nerve or two after Anthony Maher passed up on a straightforward chance.

Barry John Keane's energy was unsettling Donegal and he won a free off Neil Gallagher that he converted himself and Kieran Donaghy fisted over to leave a gap of four points once again.

Cue Kerry being cute. Cue Donegal hamstrung to a system, tired with chasing shadows and elusive Kerry players, and Jim McGuinness standing on the sideline exhorting them to get out and put a tackle in.

Dermot Molloy entered the fray and instantly grabbed one back for Donegal and Christy Toye tagged one on in the next play.

But that was it as Kerry began to really stretch Donegal's shape. Bryan Sheehan came on to nail a tricky free and all the Ulster champions could offer in response was increasingly desperate measures.

They also fouled much more frequently in the closing stages, a sure sign of a team wilting.

In practically the last run of play, Murphy attempted to barge through a roadblock in the central channel, but too many bodies were in the way.

The ball broke, Colm McFadden went full stretch to get a palm to it and it came back off the base of the post.

Nothing short of a thicket of Kerry players jumped on the loose ball, before a minor scuffle ensued.

But it was over. All over.

Donegal's dream was over. Kerry's dream of an All-Ireland, without the majestic Colm Cooper, had become a reality.

DONEGAL: P Durcan; E McGee, N McGee 0-1, P McGrath; A Thompson, K Lacey 0-1, F McGlynn; N Gallagher, R Kavanagh; O MacNiallais 0-1, L McLoone, R McHugh; D O'Connor, M Murphy (Capt) 0-4, 3f, C McFadden 0-1, f. Subs: C Toye 0-1 for O'Connor (27m), McBrearty 0-2, for McHugh (45m), M McElhinney for MacNiallais (51m), David Walsh for McLoone (56m), D Molloy 0-1, for Kavanagh (63m)

Yellow cards: Gallagher (35m), Walsh (62m), Murphy (69m)

Red cards: 0. Black cards: 0

KERRY: B Kelly; M OSe, A O'Mahoney, F Fitzgerald; P Murphy 0-1, P Crowley, K Young; A Maher, D Moran; S O'Brien, J Buckley 0-1, D Walsh; P Geaney 1-2, 1f, K Donaghy 1-2, J O'Donoghue. Subs: M Geaney for O'Brien (h-time), BJ Keane 0-2, 2f, for P Geaney (48m), S Enright for Fitzgerald (54m), Declan O'Sullivan for D Walsh (56m), B Sheehan 0-1, f, for Moran (67m), K O'Leary for Donaghy (70m)

Yellow cards: O'Brien (22m), Maher (35m), M Geaney (62m)

Red cards: 0. Black cards: Buckley (72m)

Referee: Eddie Kinsella (Laois)

Attendance: 82,184

Donegal player ratings:

Paul Durcan, 5: What a time to have a bad day at the office! Several woeful kick-outs and a mistake that led to Kerry’s second goal.

Eamonn McGee, 6:Tasked with limiting the input of Donaghy, but couldn’t prevent his opposite number from having a big say in the proceedings.

Neil McGee, 6: Did an effective job in curbing the dangerous O’Donoghue, covered smartly, scored a point, but struggled in the closing stages.

Paddy McGrath, 6: Worked hard, tackled feverishly but faded as the game progressed and was unable to stem the tide as Kerry gained momentum.

Anthony Thompson, 6: Shackled Stephen O’Brien to such good effect that he was substituted, but Thompson was unable to make an impact.

Lacey, 7: Scored a point in the 30th minute, might have had another two minutes later, showed well in first-half but tired at end.

Frank McGlynn, 6: Never able to produce his trademark sorties, he was confined to defensive duties and generally found the going tough.

Neil Gallagher, 7: The sharp edge to his battle with Anthony Maher was reflected in the fact that both players were booked.

Odhran MacNiallais, 7:Tried hard to wield a positive influence at midfield where he kept tabs on Moran but was unable to get on the ball enough.

Rory Kavanagh, 7: Made some searing bursts from the middle, set O’Connor up for a great goal chance, rode tackles well and worked his socks off.

Leo McLoone, 6: Played a deep-lying role for the most part, used his upper body strength well and laid passes off before being replaced.

Ryan McHugh, 5: Did most of his work in his own half, perhaps played too many lateral passes and only lasted until the 45th minute.

Darach O’Connor, 5: Missed a golden opportunity to find the net in the 25th minute and was whipped off two minutes later – enough said.

Michael Murphy, 6: The only Donegal starting forward who scored from play (one point), but a subdued performance overall.

Colm McFadden, 5: The curtain came down on a less than satisfying year for the veteran manner via another inauspicious display.

Replacements: Christy Toye for O’Connor (27): Caught the eye initially, scored a fine point in the 65th minute. 6

Patrick McBrearty for McHugh (45): Scored two fine points. 7

Martin McElhinney for MacNiallais (53): Lacked an end product. 5

David Walsh for McLoone (57): Wasn’t able to lift his side. 5

Dermot Molloy for Kavanagh (63): Unable to sample any level of action. 5

Kerry player ratings:

Brian Kelly, 6: Kept a clean sheet, did not always find a target with his kick-outs and defied Donegal in a frenetic finish.

Marc O Se, 7: Policed Colm McFadden to such good effect that he did not score from play, deployed his experience and initiated counter-attacks.

Aidan O’Mahony, 7: Rarely left Michael Murphy’s side, read the game well and pressed forward repeatedly in the first half in particular.

Fionn Fitzgerald, 6: Even though O’Connor didn’t provide him with many problems, the Kerry skipper was replaced by Shane Enright on 54 minutes.

Paul Murphy, 7: He produced a sustained work-rate, scored a fine point, but allowed McBrearty the space in which to pilfer his two points.

Peter Crowley, 7: A brilliant 58th minute block epitomised his defensive resolve, although the opposition did make progress through the middle.

Killian Young, 7: It’s the old dog for the hard road and the long-serving defender certainly brought his guile and craft to the table in style.

Anthony Maher, 7: Busied himself in the central area, moved the ball well and put in some big hits to halt Donegal incursions.

David Moran, 6: Got the better of MacNiallais without having to scale any great heights before being replaced by old warhorse Bryan Sheehan.

Stephen O’Brien, 6: Incurred a yellow card in the 21st minute, tried to make a more positive contribution, but was replaced at half-time.

Johnny Buckley, 7: Proved a solid link between defence and attack, scored a crucial point in the 56th minute and was shown a black card.

Donnchadh Walsh, 6: Abrasive and combative, he tackled strongly for the most part thereby subduing Donegal’s scoring prowess.

Paul Geaney, 7: A first-minute goal promised much, a 13th minute point enhanced this vision but that was as good as it got.

Kieran Donaghy, 9: A constant thorn in the side of the Donegal defence, snapped up a crucial goal and sprayed some intelligent off-loads.

James O’Donoghue, 7: Surprisingly, the Kingdom’s wonder-kid was held scoreless, but instead revealed his creative flair, particularly in the first half.

Subs: Michael Geaney for O’Brien (half-time): Brought more cohesion to the attack and held the ball up well. 6

Barry John Keane for Geaney: Two points in a 25-minute stint. 7

Shane Enright for Fitzgerald (54): Couldn’t stop Donegal’s late rally. 6

Declan O’Sullivan for Walsh (56): Helped get the team over the line. 6

Bryan Sheehan for Moran (67): One absolutely crucial point. 6

Kieran O’Leary for Donaghy (70): Only three minutes of action. 5

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