Thursday 21 September 2017

James O'Donoghue: In Kerry you are either brilliant or useless

James O'Donoghue, Kerry
James O'Donoghue, Kerry
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Footballer of the Year James O'Donoghue admits he's unlikely to see action until the Kingdom open their championship campaign later this year.

But it's not a setback, he's keen to point out.

The Kerry star insists that, with a check-up next Monday, his rehab from shoulder surgery is coming along nicely.

He has, however, all but ruled out playing any league football meaning he'll be heading into the Kingdom's championship opener against either Waterford or Tipperary on June 14 cold.

Still, he's quietly confident everything will work out for him.

"Hannan Mullet is my surgeon and he is going to tell me and I think he is saying about eight or ten weeks and I can go back into contact. So depending on what Eamonn (Fitzmaurice) thinks, its probably 12 weeks before I am playing again," O'Donoghue said at the launch of AIB's three-year football championship sponsorship agreement with the GAA.

"So it is not too bad. It will come around fairly lively so I am happy enough.

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"The league is out for me I'd say unless we get to a final or a semi-final and my rehab is going very well; they might give me a few minutes maybe.

"I am not even sure to be honest. But in my head I am ruling out the league and hopefully getting ready for the championship."

For now, O'Donoghue (pictured) spends his time watching on from the gym as he goes through his painstaking rehab while overlooking the Fitzgerald Stadium pitch.

Below him, the Kerry squad endure the early-season toil. Others will step into his jersey in the meantime and he knows he'll be playing catch-up on his return to full fitness.

"That's always the case," he said.

"But you have to completely forget about it and trust yourself that when you do come back that you are going to be in good enough nick to get a spot in the team.

"You have got to back yourself I suppose and if you have any doubts about that you are in trouble

"You have got to tell yourself in your head that you are going to get back on the team so that is what I am going to try and do."

In his absence, the Kingdom have made a mixed start to the league, losing to Mayo in Killarney before seeing off Derry.

It's not perfect but still a better opening than the last two seasons, when they lost the opening three games of the year only to recover and avoid relegation from the top flight.

"It was tough," O'Donoghue said of their early-season struggles in 2014. "We were training very hard and seemed to be training brilliantly and next thing we'd go out on the field on a Sunday and be absolutely horrific so you are trying to get your head around that.

"But that is the nature of the beast with the training. When you are training that hard you have to have almost two weeks of reining it back in which you never get in the league because we are training so hard.

"That's probably why we were so poor in the league last year. It could be the same again this year I don't know. We are training hard and at the end of the day it is about winning an All-Ireland so I'm sure the boys are trying to peak for that."

The Legion man never worried that they could be in for another poor start to the league when they were beaten at home by Mayo.

"I think we have started off okay. We were just basically off the plane from South Africa and the lads had to tackle a good Mayo team in Killarney and that was always going to be tough.

"We got a good bit of training under our belts for Derry and had a good win and you know we are thinking if you win three more games you have a great chance of getting to a semi-final so I am sure that is the goal for the boys."

Their season turned last year when Tyrone came to town. A win for the Red Hand would probably have seen Kerry relegated but instead they produced an astonishing display.

O'Donoghue hit a hat-trick of brilliant goals that day as Kerry gradually found their feet. Fitzmaurice's side hardly looked back after that.

"I don't know how to describe it, it was a lucky one," he said. "We got a couple of goals at good times and won it. There was a good feeling around the place.

"Then we won two more games and we were safe from relegation and were done with the league and then we could concentrate on championship.

"We went to Portugal had a good camp so I think we are probably going to go for the same mould this year I presume.

"Hopefully we've had our watershed moment already in beating Derry."

This time around, Kerry are different.

Reigning All-Ireland champions don't have seasons change with one big performance.

The confidence that having won Sam Maguire brings tells them that there's no need for panic, even if things don't go well in the spring.

"Maybe we kind of have the confidence … we definitely think that we can do it again; that's what we are going for.

"It does take a little bit of pressure off but at the same time not much because the expectation now is completely on us.

"In the league last year we were a bunch of wallies who weren't going to win anything and this year people think we are going to do alright and we have a strong panel.

"The expectation is on ourselves - you put the pressure on yourself at the end of the day. In Kerry, you are either brilliant or useless but I'm sure we'll be fine this year we'll have a good chance."

Last year is gone. O'Donoghue dreamt of winning an All-Ireland and now that he has it, he knows he wants more.

"We're looking forward to the summer, hopefully go back-to-back. That would be fantastic. Then you're a very good team so that's our goal. We've forgotten about last year already."

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