Donegal minors put up a valiant effort but came up just a little short in their first All-Ireland minor final in Croke Park.
It took a late point scoring burst from Kerry to finally seal victory after Donegal fought back to get within a point of the winners with six minutes left.
They will rue some missed chances for points and goals and shot selection was also a factor. But overall Kerry were deserving winners on the day.
They had a greater cutting edge to their attack but fair play to the Donegal defence, they never really gave them a goal chance of any note but the Kerry lads were good at taking points from all angles.
Donegal made two changes to their team just before the throw-in with captain Niall Harley and Niall Friel replaced by the fit again Eoghan Ban Gallagher and Ethan O’Donnell.
Micheal Carroll went to midfield while Eoghan Ban was given the free role to help out in defence.
After a scare when Danny Rodgers palmed away a high ball seconds into the game, Donegal got on the scoreboard after two minutes with Lorcan Connor releasing Jamie Brennan to point.
It was score for score for the opening quarter. Matthew Flaherty levelled for Kerry on three minutes and Killian Spillane put them ahead from a free two minutes later.
Donegal were level when Micheal Carroll released Stephen McBrearty who made a great burst to break through and point.
Kerry were intent on firing the ball high into the Donegal square but Donegal were dealing with it. They went ahead again on 10 minutes when Caolan McGonagle found the range from fully 50m, but within a minute one of Kerry’s real dangermen Micheal Burns had his side level again.
Donegal had a great goal chance on 13 minutes when McBrearty was again at the heart of a move which saw Cian Mulligan in space. The Gaoth Dobhair man broke through but there was a moment of hesitancy. He did get the ball across the goal but Lorcan Connor’s sidefoot was easily saved by the Kerry ‘keeper. From the save, Kerry went upfield and Barry O’Sullivan had Kerry ahead again.
Micheal Burns pushed them two clear but McBrearty again responded for Donegal with a great score on 15 minutes.
Tomas O Se had a Kerry point but from a Colm Kelly interception, Donegal broke for Cian Mulligan to be on the end of a good move and he pointed with his left.
Nine minutes from the break Donegal were back on level terms when Caolan McGonagle found the range again from 45m after Lorcan Connor was fouled.
Killian Spillane finished the first half scoring with two points, one from play and the other after a soft free won by Micheal Burns.
Just before the break, a Stephen McBrearty free almost found big John Campbell but the danger was averted and Donegal trailed by two at the break, Donegal 0-6, Kerry 0-8.
Kerry showed that they had the better bench with two of their substitutes getting four second half points.
Half-time replacement Jordan Kiely got Kerry on the mark inside two minutes of the restart and after Lorcan Connor fluffed a chance, Tom O’Sullivan opened the gap to four points.
Connor made amends when he pointed after winning a free, but a foul by Stephen McMenamin on Killian Spillane was punished by Spillane as Kerry began to take a grip.
John Campbell had a much needed point for Donegal on 42 minutes as Kerry threatened to pull away and Donegal had a great goal chance a minute later when Cian Mulligan and Stephen McBrearty created the opening for Jamie Brennan but he pulled his shot wide from close range.
It was a turning point as Kerry reeled off three points from Liam Carey (2) and ‘keeper Shane Ryan from a 40m free to push them 0-14 to 0-8 clear with ten minutes left.
But the Donegal defence kept standing resolutely and they got the break they needed at the other end when centre-half Tony McClenaghan burst forward on a 70m run and released Jamie Brennan to find the top corner of the Kerry net from an awkward angle.
Almost immediately Donegal had a point with Lorcan Connor sending Niall Harley through along the endline and he did well to hit the point and suddenly the lead was down to two.
Harley had come on early in the second half but was then mysteriousl replaced again on 56 minutes.
With six minutes left Stephen McBrearty won a free and Lorcan Connor left just one between them. Just before that Connor had a great chance but went for goal from a tight angle when a point may have been a better option.
Donegal did have a few more chances but it was Kerry who closed out the game with Tom O’Sullivan, Jordan Kiely and Killian Spillane getting points to open the gap to four.
Donegal kept trying and Cian Mulligan almost nicked a goal with a great low effort, but it was not to be.
But there was great honour for all of this side. The Donegal defence was outstanding throughout with Ciaran Gillespie and Danny Monagle defiant in the final line. Eoghan Ban Gallagher, Tony McClenaghan and Cian Mulligan also had a great hour, but that could be said for all of the players used. They gave it their best shot but on the day Kerry were the better side.
Donegal: Danny Rodgers; Danny Monagle, Ciaran Gillespie, Colm Kelly; Stephen McMenamin, Tony McClenaghan, Cian Mulligan (0-1); Micheal Carroll, Caolan McGonagle (0-2,2f); Stephen McBrearty (0-2), Lorcan Connor (0-2,2f), Ethan O’Donnell; Jamie Brennan (1-1), John Campbell (0-1), Eoghan Ban Gallagher. Subs., Niall Harley (0-1) for C Kelly 35; Gavin McBride for O’Donnell 45; Christian Bonner for Ban Gallagher 52; Ciaran Diver for Harley 56
Kerry: Shane Ryan (0-2,2f); Dan O’Donoghue, Brian O Beaglaoich, Tom O’Sullivan (0-1); Brian Sugrue, Andrew Barry, Cormac Coffey; Barry O’Sullivan (0-2), Mark O’Connor; Micheal Burns (0-1), Brian Rayel, Matthew Flaherty (0-1); Killian Spillane (0-5,3f), Liam Kearney, Tomas O Se (0-1). Subs., Liam Carey (0-2) for Coffey 27; Jordan Kiely (0-2) for Kearney ht; Robert Wharton for Sugrue 39; Stephen O’Sullivan for O Se 50; Ivan Parker for Rayel 60
Referee: Fergal Kelly (Longford)