Hard court helps to soften Donaghy's Kingdom return
Kerry target man is keen to draw a line under 2015
Few get the perfect ending in sport, always tempted back by the taste for more.
Pillars of previous Kerry teams, Seamus Moynihan and Darragh ó Sé, checked out at the top in 2006 and 2007 respectively. Alan Brogan's adieu came in the months after what is probably his signature moment in a Dublin shirt. But such fond farewells are in short supply.
Kieran Donaghy wouldn't be human if his mind didn't wander to what would have been his perfect exit strategy.
A Kerry captain with a hand on Sam on All-Ireland final day, having come off the bench to wreak havoc on the Dublin defence in the final 20 minutes.
Maybe if Killian Young had held on, maybe if David Coldrick had spotted a pull-down on Donaghy and awarded a penalty. Maybe. But far away nonetheless.
Donaghy, who has yet to return to training as he remains on an extended break, accepts retirement was a burning thought in his mind in the days and weeks after that defeat.
"Coming off that field last year, that was certainly in my head, he reflected. "I wasn't 100pc, I didn't go home and say, 'This is over'.
"But I knew it was something I was going to have to think long and hard about. It wasn't a decision that was made but it was certainly in my head.
"But you know there's been people suggesting that it should have been in my head maybe three or four years ago as well. So you're just trying to weigh up and make the right decision for yourself and your family really."
Had the result gone the right way he might not be having this conversation now as the Allianz League lifts off, he reflects.
"Could it get any better? If I come back, you're never going to have as good as winning it as captain.
"I just felt that it probably would have been a nice time to go if that result had gone that way.
"But it's almost the way it didn't go made this decision easier and made it a lot easier for me to go again.
"If you were coming back after winning it two years in a row and being captain the second year," he reflected.
"Two-in-a-row is quite hard to do and three-in-a-row is nearly impossible, it hasn't been done since '86. You'd be looking at it (thinking) you'd have to endure another losing final which is hard to endure."
A few things turned his mind towards 2016 again. Fitness and an injury-free body was one, a winter playing basketball helping on that front.
"Thankfully, whether it has been the basketball over the last three months, I just feel good in myself and in my body which is really the thing you have to weigh up most now in playing this game at the speed in which it is being played and the mileage that fellas are covering in games.
"With the stuff lads have to do in training (you have to ask): Is the body able for this? Thankfully with the basketball and the training and the individual stuff I have been doing with the Kerry fitness guys, it feels good to go. That makes the decision that bit easier.
"If I had an ailing hamstring or an ailing groin or the osteopubis I had in 2013, I would be very quick to say that I can't do this thing."
He also had to ensure that a new job working for PTS Sport - a company that installs artificial grass pitches all across the country - aligned with his plans.
But the return of 35-year-olds Marc ó Sé and Aidan O'Mahony was a most welcome spur in Donaghy's own decision-making process. "If Marc and Aidan hadn't gone on, it doesn't mean I would have retired but it was a positive thing to hear for me at a time when I was still weighing it up.
"Two guys who are 35, two guys who have given so much and who have gone through so much in a Kerry jersey, they were willing to go again.
"Those two boys are nearly the two fittest in our team. Over the last 10 years, they are leading the runs, leading the long distance runs. There are 22-year-olds coming in who can't keep up with them.
"They are in great shape, they take it really seriously and they take a close eye on their body. They're two great guys for us and two great servants.
"To see them go and launch it up again, certainly it was a very positive moment when I was weighing it all up."
Donaghy's basketball team, St Brendan's, Tralee, feature in this weekend's national intermediate cup final and his involvement will keep him out of the opening two league games.
Eamonn Fitzmaurice has confirmed that Donnchadh Walsh, Darran O'Sullivan and Pa Kilkenny will also rejoin the squad for this weekend's Dublin encounter but an eye injury has ruled Aidan O'Mahony out. Marc ó Sé's seasonal return has also been put back.
Colm Cooper is back training but the former Texaco Footballer of the Year is not expected to feature until the Roscommon game on Sunday week.
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