Man on a mission Donaghy makes most of golden opportunity
A game that felt like it was holding its breath for the first 20 minutes of the second half turned on his goal in the 52nd minute
It was Donaghy’s sixth All Ireland final. It was his fourth win. It was his fourth goal. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
It had to be him. Time and tides and dramatic arcs decreed it. When the doors were finally blown off this All Ireland final, it somehow felt inevitable that it would be Kieran Donaghy with his finger on the button. A game that felt like it was holding its breath for the first 20 minutes of the second half turned on his goal in the 52nd minute. Turned for Kerry and never turned back.
It was Donaghy’s sixth All Ireland final. It was his fourth win. It was his fourth goal. It carried echoes of the one he scored against Cork in the 2007 final, gifted to him by Donegal goalkeeper Paul Durcan who seemed to second-guess himself right at the split second he went to chip a short kick-out. It could have been to Leo McLoone, it could have been to Eamonn McGee. It ended up being to neither and Donaghy basked in his generosity.
“I was trying to hedge between Leo McLoone and Eamon McGee,” he said afterwards. “I saw Leo was behind me and so I was trying to play with the goalkeeper a small bit.
“I don’t know did he stub the ground or whatever but it ended up in my hands. And you just have to finish those. They’re golden chances to get, especially against them and thankfully it finished in the back of the net.
“The way I was looking at it was that we were three points up [in fact, they were four up]. It felt like it was seven-seven for about three hours! I thought it was never going to get off seven-seven. Getting off that scoreline was the big thing and certainly for us to have the momentum was big. I said to the umpire about three or four minutes before that whoever gets the goal will win it. Thankfully it was us.”
With Donaghy and James O’Donoghue always likely to spend the day fending off the attentions of the McGee brothers, Kerry’s early plan was to withdraw their two marquee forwards and leave Paul Geaney one-on-one with Paddy McGrath in front of the posts. It paid off spectacularly with Geaney’s goal after 50 seconds and afterwards O’Donoghue was quick to point at the full-forward for credit.
“It was fairytale stuff because it was something we had worked on with Paul inside,” said O’Donoghue.
“It was actually Kieran Donaghy’s idea to put him in there for the first couple of balls up high and we pulled out because Paul is excellent in the air. It went in and he stuck it in the net.”
As Eamonn Fitzmaurice reflected yesterday, that left Donaghy wondering what he had left to offer.
“He was in the frame to come on against Galway,” said Fitzmaurice. “He probably should have come on. I discussed it with him afterwards and I said we should have probably put him on but we didn’t. By the time he came training the Tuesday after the Galway game, he was a man on a mission. He had the bit between his teeth and his training form picked up. That’s the criteria. That’s been the criteria all year long, training form. His training form went through the roof and you saw that then in the last few games.
“He was very important. He got the goal obviously, other scores came off him and for the first goal he was the decoy. He had a massive contribution and he had a renaissance in the second half of the season, which was always going to happen because he was always working very hard – it was just getting game-time into him. That was the key, getting him up to that pitch, and he’s come a long way since that Clare game.”
For Donaghy himself, the idea that his summer would end this way was laughable in the middle of it. That Galway game was only seven weeks ago. It left him thinking of the end. An All Ireland medal, a goal and a starring role in the final – he couldn’t have seen it coming.
“No, no, I didn’t. And I’d be a fool to think it and anybody else would have been too. It was hard, especially after the Galway game, I was disappointed.
“I always said I’d finish playing when I felt I couldn’t offer the team anything and I suppose that was the day when I was coming down saying, ‘Can I offer the team anything?’ That’s where I was after the Galway game but look, with a bit of luck against Mayo, we were able to pull it out of the fire and I got the confidence back.”
Look what happened.