AUSTIN STACK PARK is one of the great theatres of Gaelic football.
An intimidating venue for visiting players, the old Tralee ground has been revamped of late but has lost none of its imposing air.
If Donegal thought that they were on the receiving end of a warm welcome from the natives last year, it paled into insignificance compared to what they endured at times yesterday.
When your home crowd is dotted with greats like Bomber Liston, it can tend to be a daunting task.
They appreciate their football in Kerry and it is no surprise that Michael Murphy is held in high regard. Not too high, mind.
The Donegal captain showcased his talents with a magnificent 56th minute goal, but it wasn’t enough to inspire his team to a comeback win,
“Kerry is a fantastic place to play,” Murphy said after a 1-13 to 1-8 defeat.
“When you grow up as a young fella, it’s one of the venues you want to be playing in.
“It’s brilliant to come down here and they have a real good tradition of footballers and the amount of All-Irelands they have won. They have huge tradition and huge heritage down here.
“You come down here to try and pit your wits against it and in an arena like Tralee.
“It’s fantastic for our fellas, myself included, for the whole lot of us, whether it be the younger players or the older players, it’s where you want to be, and it’s where you start to find yourself coming into championship.”
When the temperature soared in the first half, just why the teams were here – to play a football match – got lost somewhere, but things settled in the second half.
With Bryan Sheehan landing eight points and Peter Crowley powering in for a goal just after Donegal had scored an equalising point, it was Kerry who took the spoils.
Murphy said: “We came down here number one to get a good performance and to try and get the result that might go with that.
“We didn’t start off greatly, but we hung in there. In the second half we came back into it and got a couple of scores and I thought we would have kicked on.
“It was disappointing that midway through that second half when we had given ourselves the opportunity to kick on, we didn’t.
“There’s no denying that Kerry are a quality side and they punish you for that.
“Kerry are such good defenders and so good at going forward, it was always going to be a huge task but I’d be happy with the way we reacted in the second half.
“But again, I keep going back to it, we had the opportunity to push on and we didn’t do that, but we’ll learn from that now.”
Murphy was at the frontline throughout as the participants became embroiled in a few tussles of the not-so-pleasant variety, but the Donegal captain played down the incidents.
He said: “It was two teams really going at it – going for a couple of points. That’s really what it was and you were going to expect nothing different.
“It was a real good competitive game and by and large both teams really went for the ball and went hard at it.
“They tackled hard, and tried to carry the ball hard, and tried the kick the ball hard.
“That’s what it was and maybe from a viewer’s point looking in, it didn’t look great, but it was a very, very competitive game and both sets of players shook hands after the game and got on with it, and you move on to the next game. That’s the way it goes.”