Hello and welcome to Croke Park as we get set for the first Allianz Football League game of 2013 with Donegal meeting Kildare at 5pm.
Reigning All-Ireland champions Donegal are back in Croke Park for the first time since last September and they’ve been out on the pitch already for their warm-up. They’ve just gone back into their dressing-room.
We’re hearing word of a couple of Kildare changes from their team that was announced with Niall Kelly and Daniel Flynn likely inclusions in the half-forward line instead of Cathal McNally and Eoghan O’Flaherty.
Opponents Donegal have 13 of their All-Ireland winning team in action. The two new players in are Declan Walsh and Martin McElhinney with Karl Lacey and Neil Gallagher both out injured.
Both teams are now out on the pitch going through their warm-up’s. Kildare applauded Donegal onto the field when they emerged from the Cusack Stand as is the tradition for the reigning All-Ireland champions.
Jason Ryan is of course a new addition to the Kildare management team this year and the former Wexford boss is putting the Lilywhites through their paces at the moment near Hill 16.
Kildare are fresh from their O’Byrne Cup final triumph last week against Dublin. For Donegal, the Dr McKenna Cup was primarily used as a chance for experimenting and for several of their first-choice players, this will be their 2013 competitive debut.
The referee for today’s game is Cormac Reilly of Meath. The floodlights are on in a chilly Croke Park with a small crowd gathered in so far. We’re getting set for action.
The game is underway and there’s one late change in the Donegal team with Ross Wherity, from 2012 county champions St Eunan’s, replacing Mark McHugh in attack. McHugh had been an injury doubt before the game with a long-term groin problem.
Early wides from both teams, Daniel Flynn for Kildare and Ryan Bradley for Donegal.
Donegal 0-1 Kildare 0-0: 5 mins – The first point of the game and the first point of the 2013 Allianz Football League is registered by Michael Murphy. It comes from a close-range free after Ross Wherity was fouled.
Some signs of early season rust from Donegal with both Murphy and Rory Kavanagh kicking wayward cross field balls in the last few moments.
Kildare unable to punch holes in the Donegal rearguard so far but they had a good chance for a point there when Niall Kelly found himself in space. However his kick was wayward and trailed wide.
Donegal 0-3 Kildare 0-0: 10 mins – Donegal flex their muscles and pop over two points, the first from Murphy with a free and the second by Patrick McBrearty with a hooked left-foot shot from play. They have lost Colm McFadden though as he has limped off with Dermot Molloy coming on as his replacement.
Donegal 0-3 Kildare 0-1: 12 mins – Kildare pop over their first point of the game, courtesy of their leading attacker in Allenwood’s Johnny Doyle.
Donegal 0-3 Kildare 0-2: 16 mins – Another white flag raised by Kildare, this time from Mikey Conway as he curls over a free.
Kildare 1-2 Donegal 0-3: 18 mins – And suddenly Kildare are ahead. A long-range free from Mikey Conway strikes the upright and the first person to react is Tomás O’Connor who palms the ball to the net.
And of course it was O’Connor who had a goal controversially disallowed in the 2011 All-Ireland quarter-final between these teams into the exact same goal in the Davin End.
Kildare 1-3 Donegal 0-3: 23 mins – Kildare extend their lead courtesy of a Johnny Doyle pointed free after Brian Flanagan was fouled. That’s 1-3 without reply now for the Lilywhites.
Kildare 1-4 Donegal 0-3: 25 mins – Kildare are dominating now with Niall Kelly wriggling clear of the Donegal defence, punting a pass sideways and Brian Flanagan lashing a shot high over the bar from 40 yards.
Kildare 1-4 Donegal 0-4: 27 mins – Donegal nearly find the net when Michael Murphy catches a long ball from Rory Kavanagh and sends a shot screaming over the crossbar. He nearly replicated his thunderbolt from last year’s All-Ireland final there. It’s Donegal’s first score in 17 minutes incidentally after shipping 1-4 without reply.
Kildare 1-5 Donegal 0-4: 30 mins – Kildare respond quickly with Johnny Doyle tapping over a close-range free.
Kildare 1-6 Donegal 0-4: 31 mins – Niall Kelly has caught the eye for Kildare with his playmaking so far and he’s supplemented that with a sublime point from play. Leo McLoone missed a chance to respond for Donegal. Mark McHugh is into the game by the way instead of Marty Boyle, who we neglected to mention earlier started instead of Paddy McGrath.
Kildare 1-7 Donegal 0-4: 34 mins – Now Padraig O’Neill gets in on the scoring act for Kildare as he booms a shot over from 45 yards.
HALF-TIME: Kildare 1-7 Donegal 0-5: The half ends with Michael Murphy tapping over a free for Donegal while the referee has shown both Kildare’s Padraig O’Neill and Donegal’s Mark McHugh yellow cards. Kildare in the ascendancy at the interval with a five-point lead. Before we go at the break we’ve been asked by one of our readers Michael McHugh from Bundoran to mention the Donegal ladies team who take on Laois in their Division league clash in Gaelic Park, Bundoran tomorrow with a 2pm throw in time.
The teams are back out on the pitch and we’re getting set for the second-half action.
Donegal substitution at half-time sees Daniel McLaughlin in for Frank McGlynn in defence.
Kildare 1-9 Donegal 0-6: 39 mins – Donegal get off to a good start when Michael Murphy does brilliantly to direct a mishit Paddy McBrearty free over the bar with his fist. But it is Kildare’s impressive newcomer Niall Kelly who responds with a point and then Johnny Doyle strikes another. Kildare are six points to the good.
Couple of yellow cards being brandished there to Donegal’s Eamonn McGee and Kildare’s Emmett Bolton.
Kildare 1-10 Donegal 0-6: 47 mins – Kildare continue to remain on top here with Johnny Doyle firing over a left-foot point after a well-worked team move.
Kildare 1-10 Donegal 0-7: 47 mins – Michael Murphy had lead Donegal’s fight throughout the game and he’s swung over a point off his left for his sixth score of the game. Burt Kildare are dominating this game and their fitness levels look superior, which is admittedly to be expected given they have had a more extensive pre-season.
Kildare 1-10 Donegal 0-8: 50 mins – Beautiful point there from Michael Murphy as he gathered possession and demonstrated brilliant poise to get clear of the Kildare defence and take his score expertly for Donegal.
Kildare 1-10 Donegal 0-10: 52 mins – The gap is down to three points now with Patrick McBrearty on target from a free and then he sets up his Kilcar club mate Mark McHugh for a neat point. That’s four white flags raised in succession by Donegal.
Kildare 1-10 Donegal 0-11: 53 mins – The fightback is on. Michael Murphy taps over a free for Donegal and the margin is down to two.
Kildare substitution with Paddy Brophy from Celbridge coming on for Seanie Johnston.
Nearly a stunning point from Niall Kelly from the right wing but the ball strikes the upright and Donegal are able to clear. Just over 12 minutes of normal time remaining and only two points in it here in Croke Park.
Kildare 1-10 Donegal 0-12: 59 mins – That’s six points on the bounce now for Donegal as the see-saw nature of this game continues. Dermot Molloy stylishly fires off his left to trim the margin to one.
Eoin Doyle is on the Kildare team for Emmett Bolton as Donegal’s Leo McLoone sees his attempt to tie up the match drift wide.
Kildare 1-11 Donegal 0-12: 63 mins – A vital point from Kildare as Mikey Conway kicks over a free. The score came after Gary White was fouled and that was White’s last contribution to the game as Eoghan O’Flaherty has come on to replace him.
And Donegal reply instantly with a goal!
Kildare 2-11 Donegal 1-12: 66 mins – Huge drama as both sides find the net in quick succession. Kildare’s second goal of the match arrives in bizarre fashion when John Doyle floats in a shot from the right wing that Paul Durcan misjudges the flight of and despite getting his hand to it, the ball ends up in the bottom corner of the net. But then Donegal come downfield to attack with Ross Wherity fisting the ball across and Dermot Molloy getting the vital touch to palm to the net.
Kildare 2-13 Donegal 1-13: 69 mins – Kildare steady themselves after the concession of that goal to register two significant points from Niall Kelly and Eoghan O’Flaherty. Michael Murphy grabs one in reply for Donegal from a free but there is still three points between the sides.
Kildare 2-14 Donegal 1-13: 71 mins – Lovely teamwork by Kildare yields a point from Paddy Brophy.
FULL-TIME: Kildare 2-14 Donegal 1-13: All over in Croke Park and it is Kildare who triumph in an entertaining game by four points against Donegal.
So Donegal’s 2013 campaign begins with a loss as the Lilywhites celebrate success. Early days still in the year and Donegal do certainly have little pre-season work done. Kildare will be encouraged by the victory though ahead of next Saturday’s trip to Cork. Before we go, here are the scorers from tonight’s game.
Kildare: John Doyle 1-5 (0-2f), Tomas O’Connor 1-0, Niall Kelly 0-3, Mikey Conway 0-2 (0-2f), Padraig O’Neill, Brian Flanagan, Eoghan O’Flaherty, Paddy Brophy 0-1 each.
Donegal: Michael Murphy 0-9 (0-6f), Dermot Molloy 1-1, Patrick McBrearty 0-2 (0-2f), Mark McHugh 0-1.