Kerry 2-18 Donegal 0-10 | 

Kerry claim first National League title since 2017 with win over Donegal

Kerry captain David Clifford lifts the cup after the Allianz Football League Division 1 Round 7 match between Kerry and Donegal

Kerry captain David Clifford lifts the cup after the Allianz Football League Division 1 Round 7 match between Kerry and Donegal

Sean McGoldrick

Kerry have secured their first national senior title under the management of Peter Keane.

By fashioning their anticipated win over Donegal, they are uncatchable at the top of the table even though the other three final round Division 1 games don’t take place until Sunday.

Due to the shortened season because of Covid-19, the league final was cancelled. So, for the first since Mayo's victory in 1936, a team that finished top of the table wins the silverware.

It is Kerry's first league title since 2017 and their 21st in total. Team captain David Clifford chipped in with 0-6 including two frees while his colleague Tony Brosnan, who hit an impressive 0-5, staked his claim for a place on the championship team to meet Cork in two weeks’ time.

Eight days ahead of their Ulster championship showdown against Tyrone, Donegal – who effectively had nothing to play for as their place in Division 1 is secure for next season - fielded a weakened side retaining just six of the side that started last weekend's key clash against Tyrone.

They have only ever won once on Kerry soil – they beat the home side in a league tie in November 1988 on their first trip to the Kingdom for a league tie. They have now lost nine on the spin in Kerry, but they were merely fulfilling their duties on Saturday afternoon.

The Donegal absentees included Michael Murphy, Ryan McHugh and Neil McGee which gave Declan Bonner an opportunity to give his fringe players a run-out against last year's beaten All-Ireland finalists.

Even though they played with the breeze Donegal played a lot of lateral football in the first half as the lack of an obvious target man restricted their options. Still, they led two points to one early on after a double strike from Ciaran Thompson.

David Clifford of Kerry in action against Brendan McCole of Donegal

David Clifford of Kerry in action against Brendan McCole of Donegal

There was a marked lack of intensity about the contest though, as Diarmuid O’Connor and Jason Foley both coughed up possession and in the latter case it took a smart steal from O’Connor to deprive Caolan McGonigle of a goal chance after James Brennan had sent him clear.

Foley’s early woes continued when he was sin-binned for a hand trip just before the water break and Oisín Gallen tapped over the resultant free to give the visitors a 3-2 advantage.

Kerry reacted positively to that setback with a majestic goal. They held the ball for an extended period in the middle third before Tom O'Sullivan's pace and vision created the opportunity for Sean O'Shea who beat Shaun Patton from close range.

Kerry suddenly found a different gear creating four more goal chances in as many minutes which yielded 1-3.

Their second was a brilliant solo effort from Gavin White while Tony Brosnan could have had two goals but both his efforts – the first after an exquisite through ball from David Clifford and the second after the Dr Crokes' player blocked Patton's kick-out – skimmed the crossbar.

Even though Paddy McGrath was black-carded in the 30th minute the visitors mostly held their own in the last ten minutes of the half.

They were unlucky when midfielder McGonigle was unlucky to see a rasping shot flew just over just over the crossbar. But Kerry were in the driving seat at the break leading by seven points at the break, 2-9 to 0-8.

The scoring rate dropped in the third quarter as both sides began to run their bench though Clifford chipped in with two exquisite long range points and finished the half with 0-4. The poverty of Donegal’s second half effort was underlined by their tally of just 0-2.

The game petered out to its inevitable conclusion as the two sides contemplated bigger challenges coming down rapidly down the track.

Scorers: Kerry - S O’Shea 1-4, D Clifford 0-6, 2f, T Brosnan 0-5 1m, G White 1-0, T O’Sullivan, D Moran, D Moynihan 0-1 each. Donegal - C Thompson 0-5, 2f, J McGee 0-2, O Gallen 0-2, 1 f, C McGonigle 0-1.

Kerry: S Ryan; J Foley, T Morley, T O’Sullivan; P Murphy, P Crowley, G White; D Moran, D O’Connor; M Burns, S O’Shea, R Buckley; T Brosnan, D Clifford, D Moynihan. Subs: J Barry for Moran 43m, S O’Brien for Burns 43m, G Crowley for White 55m, B O Beaglaioch for Buckley 55m, T Walsh for Moynihan 63m.

Donegal: S Patton; P McGrath, B McCole, S McMenamin; C Ward, E Doherty, J McKelvey; C McGonigle, J McGee, A McClean, C Thompson, D O’Baoill, J Brennan, M Langan, O Gallen. Subs: P Mogan for Ward ht; E McHugh for McMenamin 46m, N O’Donnell for Brennan 51m. E O’Donnell for McGee 51m, C O’Donnell for Gallen 63m.

Referee: Conor Lane (Cork).

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