Kingdom’s James O’Donoghue inspired by ultimate goal
All Star says the only currency that counts in Kerry is All-Ireland winner’s medals
In attendance at the launch of the All-Ireland Series, from left, Robert Hennelly, Mayo, Dublin’s Jonny Cooper, Karl Lacey, Donegal (with the Sam Maguire cup), and Kerry’s James O’Donoghue at St Stephen’s Green, Dublin. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
It wasn’t without some gently ironic coincidence that James O’Donoghue was walking through St Stephen’s Green yesterday, carrying the Sam Maguire along with some of the other remaining contenders, when just moments earlier Paul Galvin was spotted walking anonymously in the other direction, down Leeson Street.
O’Donoghue may not have been recognisable to many people on the Green, but he is unquestionably the new face of Kerry football. He burned a hole through Cork in the Munster final earlier his month, scoring 0-10, and still only 23, his All Star award last year is already looking like being the first of a great many.
Although later, when sitting down at the Mansion House for the launch of the All-Ireland football series – otherwise known as the business end of the championship – O’Donoghue reveals he doesn’t yet consider himself a true Kerry footballer. It’s one thing playing for Kerry; it’s another thing playing for Kerry for real.
“That’s definitely something Eamonn Fitzmaurice has been getting through to us,” says O’Donoghue. “And I would say you’re not a real Kerry player until you’ve performed in Croke Park, in the white heat of championship, in an All-Ireland final, and you know, come home with the trophy.
“Even last year, I got an All Star, and realistically that means nothing, unless you have an All-Ireland title. I was actually at a quiz, a couple of nights later, and the first question asked was to name the only two Kerry players who have won an All Star, and no All-Ireland. So no one in Kerry really cares how many All Stars you’ve won. It’s All-Irelands you’re really tested on.”
His lips“And I suppose only a few weeks ago, before the Cork game, people were saying Kerry were also-rans. That does stir something inside you. It’s rare that it happens in Kerry but when it does, of course you get that bit of a kick up the backside. You’re kind of questioning are you a real Kerry player and do you deserve to be wearing that shirt?”
With that O’Donoghue points towards some of the “real” Kerry footballers that inspired him, and the first name to roll off his lips is Paul Galvin.
“When I was younger I never even thought I would play for Kerry,” he says. “I was a huge fan. But it wasn’t until Paul Galvin trained us inside in the school (St Brendan’s in Killarney), and he brought that sense of possibility to the table, that some of us were good enough.