DONEGAL proved that they are worthy title contenders following their win over Kerry in Sunday’s All-Ireland quarter-final.
Played in Croke Park in front of a large crowd, both teams were involved in an enthralling encounter, with Karl Lacey kicking Donegal through to the semi-finals with a nail-biting 1-12 to 1-10 win.
The classy defender’s late injury-time point set up a mouth-watering date with Cork in the coming weeks, with Colm McFadden finishing with a personal tally of 1-03 overall.
Boss Jim McGuinness made two late changes to his Donegal side before throw-in, with Eamon McGee and Martin McElhinney replacing Declan and David Walsh respectively.
A brace of scores from Colm Cooper kept Kerry in touch, but despite a late rally (which included a Kieran Donaghy goal), the Kingdom simply fell short against a resolute Donegal side.
In what was their first championship meeting, both teams were eager to impress on the day, with McFadden registering his side’s first point after two minutes of play –however, Cooper replied in style for the Kingdom.
It was a tense and exciting opening 35 minutes, with McFadden’s fortuitous fourth-minute goal coming straight from a sideline ball. Cooper was lively in the Kerry forward line, with the Dr Crokes man racking up a flurry of points to leave it 1-4 to 0-5 in favour of Donegal at half-time.
The rain arrived at the start of the second half, with Neil Gallagher’s introduction to the Donegal midfield saw more control for the Tir Chonaill men.
It was real nip-and-tuck action for most of the second half, with Cooper and Michael Murphy impressing for Kerry and Donegal respectively.
However, Donegal were not about to let their momentum slip, with Lacey attacking from centre-back to kick the clinching score, and set up his side’s second successive All-Ireland semi-final appearance.
Jack O’Connor’s side will take some satisfaction from their comeback in Sunday’s clash, but overall it was a somewhat flat and unimpressive performance from a side tipped by many to win this year’s All-Ireland football competition.
Donegal: P Durcan; P McGrath, H McGee, F McGlynn; M McElhinney, K Lacey (0-1), A Thompson; R Bradley, R Kavanagh; E McGee, L McLoone (0-1), M McHugh; P McBrearty (0-1), M Murphy (0-3, 0-2f), C McFadden (1-5, 1-0 sideline, 0-2f).
Subs: N Gallagher for McElhinney; D Walsh for Bradley; C Toye (0-1) for McLoone; D McLaughlin for McBrearty
Kerry: B Kealy; M O Se, A O’Mahony, S Enright; T O’Se, E Brosnan, K Young; A Maher (0-2), B Sheehan (0-1f); P Galvin (0-1), Declan O’Sullivan (0-1), D Walsh; J O’Donoghue (0-1), K Donaghy (1-0), C Cooper (0-4, 0-2f).
Subs: B Maguire for Brosnan; Darran O’Sullivan for Young; J Buckley for Sheehan; K O’Leary for Declan O’Sullivan; P Curtin for O’Donoghue