Kieran Donaghy waiting for retirement feeling to kick in
Former Kerry forward suggests a simplified version of proposed handpass rule
Former Kerry star Kieran Donaghy and Dublin All-Ireland winner Lyndsey Davey Pictured at Dublin’s Sandymount Strand for the launch of the Lidl Comórtas Peile Páidi Ó Sé 2019 GAA Football Festival, which takes place in the Dingle Peninsula from 15th to 17th February. Photograph: Thomas White
If it doesn’t feel real for Kieran Donaghy just yet, it soon will. Retirement from the life of a Kerry footballer isn’t all that different to what it was before, purely because for the past few years, he was always a basketball player in January, just as he still is. His life just now is more or less what it was this time last year and the year before. Not for long though.
“It’s the exact same really at the minute as in the last few years,” he says. “It hasn’t kicked in at all that I won’t be playing football with Kerry because I haven’t been playing at this time of year for a while anyway. The only difference so far is that I won’t be watching the first game thinking that I need to light a fire under myself and get myself to the gym five mornings a week.
“I’ll be at the Tyrone game as a complete fan. I’ll have to pay in – that’ll be some experience! I’ll park the car a mile out the road and walk in in the freezing cold. I did that last year for the Donegal game in Killarney, parked down by the Legion field and walked up and stood there for what turned out to be a great game. But even that was different because I knew I was still going to be involved at some stage. Whereas now, I’ll just be a fan in the big Kerry crowd there to see how a young Kerry team is shaping up.”
The winter has seen a change of management and an uncommonly large turnover of players in the Kerry panel. Donaghy has done his bit, so too have Anthony Maher, Darran O’Sullivan and Donnchadh Walsh. Peter Keane has decided to move on without the likes of Fionn Fitzgerald, Barry John Keane and Daithi Casey. The immediate future is going to be decidedly fresh-faced.
“Ah look, there’s no point beating around the bush,” Donaghy says. “These lads are in there because they deserve to be, they’ve all won a couple of All-Ireland finals. They’re not going to go in there and get away with it lightly and be told there’s no expectation on them. More importantly, there’s just a level of excitement now because we don’t really know what they’re going to come with, either the players or management.
“It will be experimental but people would be hopeful that by the time the championship comes around and the ground gets harder, the likes of Paul Geaney and David Moran and James O’Donoghue and Paul Murphy and Tommy Walsh will all be back and they’ll have worked with management for six or seven months. That’s when Kerry will really be judged. I think there’ll be a lenient enough period up until then.”
This coming Saturday will see a final decision made on whether the proposed changes to the playing rules are going to stick for the duration of the league. For all that he is happily retired, the curious head on Donaghy would relish being in the thick of it, teasing out the ways to use them to best effect.
“I would love to be in there trying to work them out, absolutely. The thing I’d be looking at would be how they could benefit me. Also, how are we doing it? Are we counting handpasses? If we’re one pass away, are absolutely stuck on forcing them to kick? Are our backs counting the opposition handpasses so they’re ready to pounce on their man if he gets it next? All that is the kind of thing that I’d love to be getting stuck into if I was in there.
“Something had to be tried, absolutely. Saying that, the handpass one is tricky. I find it absurd that when you’re in close to goal and you’re on the third handpass, you can’t put a fella in running off your shoulder to get in for a goal. I just think that’s counter-productive. I would be all on for reducing it even to two consecutive handpasses out the field but once you get inside the opposition 45, you can go back to just playing it normally.
“The problem with all the handpassing is that teams are using it to waste time and slow the game down. But you’re not going to be doing that once you get inside the 45. When you’re in there, you’re trying to find space for a score. I think it would be easier for referees too because it would simplify the whole thing.”
Kieran Donaghy was launching the 30th Comórtas Peile Páidí Ó Sé, to be played over the weekend of the February 15th-17th.