Dropped 'Star' can still be Kingdom 'go-to guy' when chips are down
Published 04/07/2013 | 05:00
When the news filtered through that Kieran Donaghy would be dropped for the Munster final, it hit me like a bolt from the blue. I was astonished.
I decided to give Kieran a call as, over the years, he is someone with whom I have developed a close relationship.
He didn't whinge or moan, he simply said he was focused on doing all he can to help the squad beat Cork. It summed up the class of the man.
I have been lucky enough to be involved with him in the International Rules set-up and I can tell first hand just what he brings to the table.
There is no doubt that he is a brilliant presence around the dressing-room. His personality lights the place up and he is a true leader.
He helps to develop great camaraderie within a group and he wants everyone to be part of it.As well as all this, he remains, in my opinion, one of the top players in the country.
But the time has come for some perspective on the issue as well.
All Eamonn Fitzmaurice has done is make a managerial decision that he feels is best for Kerry football.
I have no doubt this is nothing more than a tactical decision and Eamonn believes he is picking the right team to go out and beat our old rivals.
There is a reason training has been closed to the public for the past number of weeks.
Kerry have clearly been working on a few things and implementing what they hope will be a winning style of football.
Nobody, myself included, is privy to what type of form particular players are in or what exactly the management is looking for.
This is Eamonn's first year at inter-county management, and this does show he has conviction in his own beliefs and that he won't shy away from making the tough calls.
These are his qualities that have, for me, never been in question. I am just praying that this decision is something that doesn't backfire when the team take the field on Sunday.
The ideal coaching manual would probably say that no player can be immune to the chop. But sometimes, I think certain players should always be picked even if form isn't 100pc.
Jim McGuinness was asked why he wouldn't substitute Colm McFadden after some indifferent performances in the league.
The Donegal manager's answer was simple – McFadden is one of his go-to men and he will need him firing on all cylinders in the summer.
If he takes him off, all he is doing is denting his confidence.
If Kerry are to win the All-Ireland, they will need Kieran Donaghy. I have no doubt about that. And I'm pretty sure Cork will be happy that they don't have to deal with him from the start on Sunday.
The Rebels have spent the past five months trying to perfect a new defensive system.
What the absence of Donaghy means is that, should Cork be on top, Kerry can't revert to the route-one ball into the big man at the edge of the square.
It means the attack is going to be relying on low ball all the time into the inside forwards.
Kieran, for a big man, is an expert at winning any kind of possession.
It takes that element of unpredictability away from the Kerry attack.
Also, if there is a problem winning primary ball at midfield, we have seen in the past how effective he can be roaming around the middle.
But, most of all, my shock lies in the fact that Kieran Donaghy is a big-game player, and the man known as 'Star' has proven this over and over again.
The last time his form was called into question, he turned in a brilliant showing in the All-Ireland final against Dublin in 2011.
Kieran will bounce back again, of that there is no question.
The worrying thing from a Kerry perspective, however, is that his chance to do so might not come until the qualifiers.