Manager's thoughts

Relief and disappointment for Kerry and Donegal after 'epic battle' which leaves final day showdown

Declan Bonner and Peter Keane’s sides played out a thrilling Super 8s draw in Croke Park today.

- Emma Duffy reports from Croke Park

RELIEF OR DISAPPOINTMENT was the question of the moment after Donegal and Kerry’s thrilling Super 8s battle in Croke Park today. And a bit of both was the answer from each camp.

Declan Bonner with Peter Keane Ryan Byrne / INPHO Declan Bonner and Peter Keane after the match. Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

“It’s a mixture of both to be quite honest,” Tír Chonaill manager Declan Bonner said after the 1-20 a-piece ding-dong draw.

“At the end I think we were level on maybe 16 occasions, so if that’s the case then a draw was probably a fair result at the end of the day.

“We had opportunities to kill the match, I didn’t see the second goal, the [disallowed] Eoin McHugh goal. But if we had taken it would have been a huge score in the game. Listen, we have it all to do now in two weeks in Castlebar.

We haven’t even looked at Mayo, we’ll sit down this evening and start getting ready for that over the next 13 days. From our point of view, I thought it was a great game of football, the lads showed real character. Both teams went at it and it was an epic battle.

“Relieved or disappointed… a bit of both I suppose,” Kerry boss Peter Keane conceded

“At the end of the day it is championship football but it is a mini league. You’re coming in, hoping at the end of the day you’d have four points out of the three games.

“Look, you have three so it’s better than two.”

Today’s result, of course, means that Group 1 will come down to the final day in two weeks’ time as Donegal face Mayo in Castlebar while Kerry travel to Navan.

Paul Murphy and Michael Murphy Ryan Byrne / INPHO Michael Murphy and Paul Murphy in action. Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

Kerry and Donegal are both on three points, and Mayo are on two after their win over Meath today at Croke Park earlier today which left the Royals out of the race.

(See the table here)

And after an outstanding second game of football at HQ, it left for plenty of positive discussion before even thinking of the Phase 3 winner-takes-all battles.

“I thought we fought like hell towards the end,” Keane noted, when asked what the most pleasing thing from his view was. 

“I thought there was a never say die attitude by us. There were a couple of frees that went against us that were bordering on not being frees. Every time we were getting ahead, they were getting back into it in some way or another. I thought we fought, and fought well.”

And Bonner was equally as pleased with his side’s heart.

The one thing about the squad is these guys will fight to the end, there’s no doubt about that,” he said.

“There was some brilliant score-taking, young Oisín Gallen came on and kicked two brilliant scores and I thought Michael [Murphy] was unbelievable in that second half and Ryan [McHugh] really took the fight.

Eoin McHugh scores aa goal that was then disallowed Ryan Byrne / INPHO Eoin McHugh had a goal disallowed. Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

“They all really emptied it out there on the pitch and that’s all you can ask. We have to do it all again in two weeks.”

“It is a huge match,” he continued, on the final day showdown in Castlebar. “It is difficult place to get a result and our preparation for that will start later this evening on our way home and we will get back training during the week.

It is a winner take all, it is an All-Ireland quarter-final with a semi-final place at stake back here in three weeks time. That is the challenge. That is the goal.

Will they draw on last year’s hurt of falling at the final hurdle?

“The fact it is so close after this match you are just trying to take that in,” Bonner concluded.

Lads have moved on and they are definitely showing signs of improvement. We will still have a level to go and we know that but it is within the group. There will be a lot of questions asked and we are hoping to have the answers.

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