First Munster club medal would crown an amazing year for Kieran Donaghy

Austin Stacks man misses All Star trip to Boston to help his side face The Nire

Kieran Donaghy: has proved a hugely influential figure in his club’s Kerry county championship success and their subsequent progress to the Munster club final. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Kieran Donaghy: has proved a hugely influential figure in his club’s Kerry county championship success and their subsequent progress to the Munster club final. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

If his dreamlike season had been slowly awakened by now Kieran Donaghy would have been playing in Boston this weekend instead of Páirc Uí Chaoimh – although there’s no mistaking where he wants and needs to be.

Because while an All Star touring party featuring the 2013/2014 football selections are departing for Boston ahead of Saturday’s exhibition game at the Irish Cultural Centre at Canton, Donaghy has surrendered his place among the 2014 selection – the obvious and simple reason being Sunday’s Munster club final, with his beloved Austin Stacks.

Donaghy may have come from near oblivion to help Kerry secure another All-Ireland title last September, and with that collect his third All Star award.

But Sunday’s showdown against Waterford champions The Nire offers him the chance to go where he’s never gone before. After ending a 20-year wait for a Kerry title, Austin Stacks are back in their first Munster club football final since 1976, when they also won their only provincial title to date.

Kerry captain

Stephen Stack

“People have probably only seen him since he came back in with Kerry, for the Mayo game,” says Stack, “but he had been working phenomenally hard, since the start of the year, to try and get himself right and I’m really glad things came right for him in the finish.

“As ever for us he has had a very strong influence all year. Because even when he couldn’t train with us, which he couldn’t, most of the time, because of his commitment with Kerry, he very often came down to our sessions anyway. I often got him involved, like taking the B team, when we were playing an A v B game, and if we were doing tactical pieces, I’d also involve him. I actually think he has great potential, as a coach, ultimately.”

There were also stretches during the season when Donaghy, now 31, couldn’t train or play because of injury but even then, says Stack, his enthusiasm never waned.

Second Captains

“He is not a fella who sits comfortably on the sideline and watches a club training session and I think you’d be a fool, with his energy, enthusiasm and knowledge, not to involve him, or maximise his involvement, in any way you can.

An opportunity

Then, once Donaghy got back playing, the rest took care of itself. His influence has been varied, too, notably in the Munster semi-final win over Cork champions Ballincollig, which went to extra-time, as he abandoned his more familiar position at the stern to help steer the ship home from closer to the bow.

“He’s been fantastic on the field, yeah,” adds Stack.

“The great thing about Kieran is that if I asked him to play in goal tomorrow morning then he will play in goal, and he will happily do it. He is the ultimate squad player, because he doesn’t just think about himself.

“He thinks a lot about the other players in the squad, and he’s always keeping in touch with fellas quietly and thinking I wouldn’t know. But I’d hear about it, and he’d be doing it in the most positive way, because that’s the just way he is.

“He’s got an awful lot of positive energy coming out of him and he has a very good attitude to life, and he has a very good attitude to people. Whatever success he has this year I can tell you it hasn’t been by accident; he has worked exceptionally hard this year.”

The All Star tour to Boston, meanwhile, features several replacements for those actually named on the GAA/GPA selections, due to the unavailability of players such as Donaghy.

Kerry team-mate and 2014 footballer of the year James O’Donoghue has also been named to travel, even though he’s recovering from a recent shoulder operation. With 31 players named in total, the game once again will likely be played as a 13-aside.

Donegal manager Jim McGuinness was originally named as one of the travelling managers, but he too is unavailable, his place now taken by ex-Mayo manager James Horan, who will take charge of the 2014 selection, with Dublin manager Jim Gavin in charge of the 2013 squad.

Strong panel

New York senior manager Ian Galvin has named a strong panel which features former Donegal player Ross Wherity, along with Down duo Ger McCartan and Keith Quinn, while Offaly midfielder Brian Connor returns after missing out on the Connacht championship clash against Mayo in May.

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