Kerry’s Kieran Donaghy not taking Tipperary threat lightly
Versatile Kingdom star looking forward to a good year under Eamonn Fitzmaurice
Exactly one year on from his brusque dropping from the Kerry team for their Munster championship date with Tipperary – a little rap on the knuckles for following Chelsea all the way to the Champions League final, in Munich – Kieran Donaghy seems happy to report that he watched last week’s Europa League final in Amsterdam from the comfort of his sitting room in Tralee.
“No, no, I watched it on the box,” he says. “I got enough stick last year, for going to Germany, so I watched this one on the couch. But it was very enjoyable, a good win for Chelsea, another trophy.”
Donaghy likes to say things as they are – and makes no exceptions here: speaking at a media event of football sponsors, Ulster Bank, he agrees entirely if Kerry have any great ambition for the summer then they should be beating Tipperary comfortably this Sunday.
“Yeah, and we always try and do that. But they always just push us to a certain point in games, and that point is getting closer to the end of the game. When I started they’d always push you for 40 minutes. You’d be two or three points up and then you might pull away and win by six or seven.
“Every year that gap is getting shorter. It went up to 50 minutes and last year we were only a point up after 62 minutes, or something like that.
“ You don’t want to get into a situation where it’s 65, 70 minutes and it’s still very tight, because a goal could lose you the game. And with the success they’ve had at underage you have to give them the respect that they deserve.
“But we want to go out and give a performance to justify the efforts we have been putting in and get a good result for Kerry. That’s what our focus is. But we know Tipperary are coming in and can throw the shackles off and have a right go at us . . . Mentally we have to be ready and tuned in for the game.”
Donaghy is ready to go alright, having enjoyed an injury-free spring for the first time in several seasons. With most of his team-mates injury free as well the question is more about positions, especially whether Colm “Gooch” Cooper is now better suited to centre-forward, having orchestrated things so well from there in Kerry’s last league game against Tyrone.
“Well, he wasn’t a bad corner forward too for 10 years. It’s something the management have tried, but I wouldn’t rule out his number 13 days by any means. It’s certainly a role that he is quite good at. I think that came from Dr Crokes really, going out and lifting things, getting on ball. He’s so dangerous that it’s hard to take him away from being close to goal.”
Donaghy is happy to have Gooch playing alongside him, no matter where it is: “We’re fortunate enough to have guys who can play in a lot of positions. He’s certainly a good distributor of the ball and he’s very accurate. That makes your job easier when you’re full forward.
“He’ll put the ball into you with a very accurate pass. Certainly having him close to you makes your job easier, and we’ve a very good understanding over a long period of time. I know where he’s going to be when I get the ball then.
“Now, most of our forwards can play in a range of positions, Declan (O’Sullivan) can play outside and inside. I can play out around the middle of the field. It’s something we haven’t really had in other years. We’ve been set where fellas are going to be.
“The league this year has been different. I’ve played a lot of games out around the middle of the field and that benefitted me in getting practice in that area of the field and match legs.”
Speaking of match legs, Donaghy, now 30, dismisses the suggestion that a lot of the Kerry players now have the sort of high mileage in their legs that retirements can’t be too far down the road.
“ I think you’re always mad to retire fellas, in the media. I look at Tomás Ó Sé now, and he looks as fit now as he did when he was 25. He’s never had any injuries so why should he retire now if he’s enjoying playing football? I think age is in the head too. If you feel fit and you feel healthy and strong and you never had any real injuries, bad injuries, if you’re enjoying what you’re doing, why stop?
That’s not saying Kerry didn’t need to revive things a little this year, especially under new manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice, and that they had not become a little predictable.
“Well we’ve played a lot of high profile games in those seven or eight years, since 2006 . . . It’s good to be able to vary it, and to have various approaches to different teams you may play. That’s something that’s important for us this year.”