FROM CHRIS MCNULTY IN BALLYBOFEY
IT wasn’t, said Jim McGuinness, ‘perfect’ but, still, yesterday’s nine-point win over Kerry that has edged Donegal closer to Division 1 safety must be jotted down as a good afternoon’s work.
Michael Murphy hit 1-5 for Donegal as they coasted to a 1-12 to 0-06 win over a Kerry side that looked every inch the Division’s bottom side.
Kerry lost Marc Ó Sé to injury in the first half and, five minutes into the second, his brother Tomás was sent off for a kick on Ryan McHugh.
It was a largely insipid performance from Kerry, but with Murphy calling the tune it was Donegal who dominated the day.
The captain rammed home a fifth-minute penalty, after Ross Wherity had been fouled, to rid the memories of a penalty miss against Tyrone a week ago.
There were flakes of snow dropping from the Ballybofey sky on a crisp afternoon that saw Donegal claim a second win of the season and sends them into a pair of away games – at Cork and Mayo – on a sound note.
With three games remaining, there doesn’t appear desire from McGuinness to reach the League play-offs, although his side is now in a semi-final berth as they sit in fourth place in the table.
“Na, not really,” mused the Glenties man.
“It’s not that we don’t want to be in the League semi-final, but we want to get out of the League what we set about getting and that’s looking at players and at different styles of play.
“We’ve managed to get four points on the back of that and hopefully another two will keep us up.”
It was put to the Donegal manager that the win had eased potential relegation worries, but that was, he responded, something referenced not by his players but by journalists.
“We have done it now for a few years and we continue to do it – stay true to ourselves,” continued McGuinness.
“We know what we want to get out of the League and we know that, even looking at that today, we are not where we need to be in terms of our conditioning.
“We came back into training very late and we’re just trying to build towards the summer and try to build the squad. We want to build players and build fitness. Today, we managed to merge all of those things.”
Donegal led 1-5 to 0-3 at half-time with Patrick McBrearty prominent having been restored to the starting XV.
Mark McHugh failed a late fitness test on a calf injury and Ryan Bradley played the sweeper’s role despite having a hamstring complaint. ‘With next week’ (Cork) in mind, McGuinness withdrew midfielders Rory Kavanagh and Neil Gallagher for the closing stages.
Anthony Thompson was unable to start having injured a hamstring in the warm-up, but his defensive colleagues managed to shut Kerr out. Goalkeeper Paul Durcan saved brilliantly from Kieran O’Leary who had burst in before the All-Star netminder saved a penalty from the same player four minutes from time.
McGuinness said: “It was a brilliant save from the penalty. He marshalled the goal very well all day, which is a big plus for him.”