Kieran Donaghy still the big ticket as new Kerry emerge
‘Whatever my role, it will be to help Kerry get over the line, that’s what I will do’
Kerry’s Kieran Donaghy with his daughter Lola Rose after the Munster final. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
He’s a bit long in the tooth these days for Beatlemania but judging by the screams coming from the gaggle of young girls around the Kerry bus, Kieran Donaghy is still the big ticket around here.
They near enough knock him over, a wave of them hopping on him before he has time to put his bag down and stand in for another photo. Their exuberance sends him into a fit of giggles. It’s gone past nine and there’s still heat in the sun and life is good.
The game was long gone when he came on to play in his 12th Munster final and see out his 11th win. He replaced David Clifford, who was six when Donaghy made his Kerry debut, and spent the last 15 minutes taking catches, laying off passes, basically giving the crowd something to hold their interest.
Along the way, he passed Dan O’Keeffe to move into 10th spot on the list of Kerry championship appearances. He might not start another Kerry game but he’ll be there at the end of most of them, doing his thing. Being Kieran Donaghy.
“I see myself fitting in where I am at the moment,” he says. “Coming in and trying to be an impact. And if we pick up any injuries or my form keeps going the way it is, I’ll keep knocking on the door and trying to get a starting jersey. That’s the way it has to be. I’m pushing hard to try and get the start but whatever my role is going to be - and I’ve always said this and you know that - whatever my role it will be to help Kerry get over the line, that’s what I will do.”
All around him now are in the dressing room are the players he’s been waiting on. Clifford, Seán O’Shea and Gavin White were all terrific on Saturday night, full of pace, intent and trickery. Where they go from here is entirely up to them. Exciting times.
“Yeah, and absolutely you don’t know what’s going to happen,” Donaghy says. “You just hope they keep their heads down and keep working and keep getting better and keep striving to get the Kerry jersey to where it’s going to be over the next decade or two. They’re an exceptional bunch, four minor teams in a row coming through and the under-17s out there today aren’t too bad either. Kerry football never really takes too much of a dip.
“These boys are coming but it’s a long road as well. We have to be real as well. They have a lot of learnings over the next few weeks and hopefully that will stand them in good stead if we get through.
“They’re all winners. They all have two All-Irelands, Hogan Cups - they’re just winners. When you’re a winner like that, you come into a set-up and you’re as good as they are - they know how to play the game. Minor coaching has got to such a high level now that when they come in, it’s not the step up that it might have been 15 years ago. Their body shape as well allows them to compete - they’re all on weights since they were 14. So they’re coming in in much better shape. It’s brilliant.”
Their next assignment brings them to Croke Park in three weeks. The Galway they beat so easily there last year won’t be the Galway they face this time around and there will be an element of flying blind on all sides as the Super-8s play out. Donaghy can’t wait.
“Really looking forward to them. I think they’re going to be very exciting. You really don’t know what they’re going to throw up and that’s exciting. You don’t know where you’re going, where you’re playing. We know we have Galway in Croke Park in three weeks, which will be a belter of a game.
“In the past, we were six weeks, seven weeks after a Munster final waiting for a game and you’re going up against a crowd that were battle-hardened and it’s always dodgy for us. So the Super-8s are going to be outstanding and I think for the fan and the neutral in particular, there’ll be a lot of good games.
“Either sitting in front of the telly or going to games that are close to them. There’s going to be a lot of games almost like Kerry and Mayo in the Gaelic Grounds in ‘14, a lot of parochial fixtures where the passion and the blood-flow will be going.”