The 2012 Irish all-stars, with a little help from New York and replacements, used a powerful closing finish to easily take the spoils by a score of 8-17 to 8-7 in this fun filled and entertaining contest at Gaelic Park on Saturday night.
The winners trailed by two points with seven minutes gone in the second half but then outscored their opponents 6-5 to 3-2 the rest of the way. But for brilliant saves by Brendan Kealy it would have been a wider margin as the goals came in after countless five and six player moves.
Donegal and 2012 manager Jim McGuinness will be happy with the win in a challenge contest, but his powerful Donegal side would have fits if they ever allowed two, let alone eight goals.
That said, the game was played with little if any defense played by the outfield players. The keepers, in particular Kealy, were very busy, with the Kerry native stopping at least five further goals.
The first half was played at a leisurely pace. Remarkable with the 13 a side format, only four goals arrived over the half hour.
The 2011 side dominated the first 15 minutes and were poised in a 2-3 to 0-4 lead after Ray O’Carroll had a well finished goal from a long Bernard Brogan delivery.
The 2011 side did have three of the first four points, with Karl Lacey carrying the ball constantly up the middle and then flicking to a teammate at opportune times.
The game changed, however, when MD McCauley crashed the ball in to the net five minutes in. His side followed with a Brogan point before the wood work at both ends took a battering.
The 11s had strikes that rebounded out to safety from McCauley and Kevin McMenamin, while at the other end Paul Kerrigan crashed a shot of the outside of the post. Goal chances a begging, but a sign of things to come.
The sides swapped points before Rory O’Carroll had the second major to give his side a 2-3 to 0-3 advantage with a quarter of the game over.
The 2011 side dominated the second quarter, however, and they outscored their rivals 1-7 to 1-1 with Donnacha O’Connor grabbing the goal with seven minutes left in the half, while Donegal’s Niall Gallagher also had a screaming point that he certainly was hoping would stay low.
The side actually had a 1-11 to 2-4 lead with 30 seconds left in the half before a five player sweeping move resulted in McCauley grabbing his second goal of the half when he finished to the net from the final Brogan pass.
The game stayed surprisingly close as the second half opened. Paul Kerrigan had a goal in the first minute for McGuinness’s side, and Leo Keegan followed with a point off the diving Kealy’s hand when he advanced to the 14 yard line.
The response was swift from Pat Gilroy’s side as they forged back into the lead for the final time with a 2-1 burst. A thunder bolt from Brogan on three minutes was followed by his second of the game when the quick thinking Ben Brosnan flicked a short free to the open Dubliner who made no mistake.
A towering point from wide on the right increased their advantage to 5-5 to 2-12, but alarmingly that was where it fizzled.
The next five scores all came for the 12s, with Cillian O’Connor the catalyst for most of them. He had a goal on the seventh minute and then cheekily volleyed a pass from New Yorker CJ Molloy over the bar, when he was absolutely thinking net.
Lacey (a point) and Keegan (a goal) put light between the sides before Colm O’Neill added 1-1 in sandwiching a Brosnan point to extend their advantage to 5-15 to 5-6 with 15 minutes left in the game.
Kealy showed again why he is the Kerry number one with two excellent saves that allowed his side to stay within 10.
McMenamin had a goal after Brosnan's shot was stopped by Paul Durcan, and Kerrigan and Brosnan swapped points, but then the winners put a cherry on top of their dominant performance with four further scores, three of which were net shaking goals from Gallagher, Donnacha O’Connor and Donegal’s first All-Ireland winning captain Anthony Molloy's nephew CJ, when the young American finished brilliantly after Gallagher found him with a sweet pass.
It was nigh on a hammering for the losers, and but for goals from Alan Dillon and McCauley to complete his hat trick, the defeat would have been much worse.
At the end of a long season for club and county, it is strictly about enjoyment in a contest like this. The close to 1,000 spectators were treated to a very entertaining exhibition, with Kealy, McCauley, Brogan, for the 11s and Lacey, the O’Connor’s and Gallagher leading the victor with brilliant displays.
Brendan Kealy was the man of the match; the ref was M. Deegan from Laois.