Kerry had discussed Aidan O’Shea-Kieran Donaghy match-up

Éamonn Fitzmaurice: ‘We felt maybe it would be down list of possible options’

 Kieran Donaghy celebrates a Kerry goal  beside Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea during the All-Ireland SFC semi-final at Croke Park. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Kieran Donaghy celebrates a Kerry goal beside Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea during the All-Ireland SFC semi-final at Croke Park. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

It will – among a great many other things – be remembered as the game where Mayo put Aidan O’Shea on Kieran Donaghy, if not one of the deciding factors in their drawn All-Ireland semi-final at Croke Park, then certainly the major talking point.

Yet as unlikely and indeed unexpected as it was, Kerry manager Éamonn Fitzmaurice wasn’t overly surprised by it all, and the sight of Mayo’s central attacking player loitering in the full back position alongside Donaghy.

“It was a thing we’d discussed, there was a possibility it could happen,” said Fitzmaurice, “that they could match him up with Kieran. We felt maybe it would be down list of possible options, but it was something we had discussed.

“So look, obviously it’s up to Mayo to get their match-ups right and for them to organise those – that’s not something we can control.

O’Shea dropped back to mark Donaghy from the throw-in, a tell-tale sign it seemed of Mayo playing a more defensive game. Donaghy won the first ball, and already it seemed the O’Shea match-up looked misaligned. Donaghy won five of the first six balls played into his territory.

By the end of the first half, Donaghy had laid his hand on 1-3 of Kerry’s scores, O’Shea’s influence WAS essentially non-existent.

Kerry’s Kieran Donaghy and Aidan O’Shea of Mayo share an exchange during the All-Ireland SFC semi-final at Croke Park. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Kerry’s Kieran Donaghy and Aidan O’Shea of Mayo share an exchange during the All-Ireland SFC semi-final at Croke Park. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Did Fitzmaurice believe then it worked mostly to Kerry’s benefit?

“I’m not sure, I think he [O’Shea] did fine. He won one or two balls in the first half and rooted away with Kieran, didn’t allow him to have a huge impact on the game.

“I suppose, I haven’t really thought about that side of it yet. But with a player like that, if you give them a big job like that to do, it’s robbing Peter to pay Paul – he obviously can’t be in two places at once. From the Mayo point of view, they’d be happy once he does the role that is assigned to him for the day.”

What is certain, reckons the Kerry manager, is that O’Shea’s positioning in no way changed Kerry’s tactics in the type and especially the height of the ball sent into Donaghy.

“No. I don’t think so. To be fair to Mayo, they were very intense in the middle third, as they do, they tackled ferociously and worked really hard. I think conditions helped that. It was hard for our kickers to get their head up and get the ball in as we would have liked, but that’s something for us to work on for next week now.”

Whether or not Mayo use O’Shea on Donaghy again next week remains to be seen: in the meantime Fitzmaurice has plenty of other things to think about in the six days before next Saturday’s replay

“I suppose, similar to yourselves, it was some battle. Both sets of players deserve massive credit for the way that they went at it today, particularly with the conditions the way they were.

“I think both teams will have regrets, that they could have possibly have won the game, and at the same time be relieved that they’re not going to be out of the championship as well – typical draw, really.”

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