As happy 21st celebrations go, this was as low-key and understated as one could imagine as Kerry secured the Allianz National League title, beating Donegal 2-18 to 0-10 at Austin Stack Park in Tralee.
Kerry seldom get overly excited about winning National League titles but, oddly enough, in the absence of supporters one sensed that this meant plenty to the Kerry players and management.
Having lost the League final – and then the All-Ireland final – last year, Kerry couldn't really afford to lose a game and a title that was theirs for the taking.
After doing the hard part the previous weekend by winning away to Monaghan, Kerry were expected to beat a Donegal team coming south with little to play for, and they duly did.
A fortnight out from a Championship trip to Cork, Kerry wouldn’t have wanted to lose any momentum, and they looked purposeful and sharp this afternoon, albeit against an understrength Donegal side that had other things on their mind.
Their focus remains very much on an Ulster Championship scrap with Tyrone next week, and that showed in Donegal’s team selection and it showed out on the field.
They left Michael Murphy, Ryan McHugh, Neil McGee and others at home, so manager Declan Bonner won’t lose sleep over a 14-point defeat away to Kerry, but he will need to get the full band back together this week and singing off the same page for Tyrone.
Kerry, meanwhile, will thankfully take a League title and move on.
In the absence of spectators, the celebrations were even more muted than they would normally be, but in these Covid times silverware is still silverware, and manager Peter Keane won’t sniff at winning his first national title as senior team boss.
It took Kerry until the first water break to settle into any sort of rhythm, but it said much for their application and attitude that they outscored Donegal by 2-04 to 0-01 in the 10 minutes they were down to 14 men. Jason Foley was black carded in the 15th minute as Kerry trailed 0-02 to 0-03, but when he returned his team were 2-06 to 0-01 ahead.
Straight after the water break Kerry flooded forward with defender Tom O’Sullivan setting up Sean O’Shea for a neat goal from close range, and after O’Sullivan scored a point, Gavin White cruised past three tackles to place the ball past Shaun Patton to put Kerry six clear.
Tony Brosnan came to life with three points in as many minutes in the second quarter, as Donegal struggled to get any real foothold in the game.
Ciaran Thompson was the only real spark of energy or purpose in the Donegal attack, and his two early scores from play and a late brace of converted frees kept Donegal somewhat in touch at the interval, 2-09 to 0-08.
The visitors managed just two points in the second half as David Clifford – held to just one converted free in the first half – came to life with four from play in the second as Kerry – with other scores from Sean O’Shea (3) and Brosnan (2) – leaving the result inevitable long before the final whistle.
A 21st League title, then, for Kerry in unusual and muted circumstances, but neither they nor Donegal will get carried away with the scoreline. Both have far more important games on the horizon.
Kerry: Shane Ryan, Jason Foley, Tadhg Morley, Tom O’Sullivan 0-01, Paul Murphy, Peter Crowley, Gavin White 1-00, David Moran 0-01, Diarmuid O’Connor, Micheál Burns, Sean O’Shea 1-04 (0-02f), Ronan Buckley, Tony Brosnan 0-06 (0-01m), David Clifford 0-05 (0-01f), Dara Moynihan 0-01.
Subs: Stephen O’Brien for M Burns (44), Jack Barry for D Moran (44), Gavin Crowley for G White (55), Brian O Beaglaoich for R Buckley (55), Tommy Walsh for D Moynihan (63).
Donegal: Shaun Patton, Paddy McGrath, Brendan McCole, Stephen McMenamin, Caolan Ward, Eamonn Doherty, Daire Ó Baoill, Caolan McGonigle 0-01, Jason McGee 0-02, Jeaic McKelvey, Andrew McClean, Ciaran Thompson 0-05 (0-02f), Jamie Brennan, Michael Langan, Oisin Gallen 0-02 (0-01f).
Subs: Peader Mogan for C Ward (ht), Eoin McHugh for S McMenamin (46), Niall O’Donnell for J Brennan (51), Ethan O’Donnell for J McGee (51), Conor O’Donnell for O Gallen (63).
Referee: Conor Lane (Cork)