Kieran Donaghy: I would have quit Kerry if we won All-Ireland
Published 22/10/2015 | 02:30
Kieran Donaghy hasn't had space to reflect like this in probably two years but there's time now.
There's no All-Ireland to be celebrated and Austin Stacks, while still active, won't be winning the big prize in Kerry. That, in turn, means captaincy won't be an issue.
So there's time. And maybe it's a good thing and maybe it isn't.
It gives time to consider what was missed and 2015 goes down as Paradise Lost. Donaghy is acutely aware of the history that surrounds Kerry football and in the summer gone by, the chance to join the celebrated list of men to lead Kerry to an All-Ireland title was there but it disappeared down the gully on a wet September Sunday.
"It will probably be later on in life that might come into your head," he sighs.
That's the trouble with getting off the treadmill. It makes you take stock of the other things that are going on around you. Things have changed dramatically for Donaghy lately. A baby girl has "come thundering" into his house and, for the first time, he's considering his future with Kerry.
You can sense the conflict in him. Walking away would be a wrench but there are so many good memories. There might have been no Kerry career to reflect on at all. At one stage a basketball scholarship in the US beckoned but he stayed behind to play for Kerry in a Munster U-21 final.
"Ultimately, I was never huge academically; I never really loved studying and although college might have been great for basketball I probably would have been struggling on the other side of things," he recalls.
"Just the chance to play with the Kerry 21s in a Munster final that July and they wanted me over there at the start of July so I would have had to go and miss that so I chose the (Munster final).
"I was cursing myself I chose it because we lost the game at the end three or four weeks later and it was too late then, the scholarship was given to someone else. It was tough that year but in hindsight it was a good enough move."
It's a move that led to a celebrated career with Kerry and one that has delivered more than he ever expected.
"The likes of the Gooch now would have been the kind of guy, where everyone in the county would say, 'He'll play for Kerry'.
"But there was no one when I was 17 saying I was going to play football for Kerry. And not alone did no one say it, I didn't think it myself.
"All of a sudden I was able to compete for a spot in the Stacks senior team in 2002 and I was coming off the back of two years with Kerry 21s and then I started flirting with the idea of getting into a squad.
"But did I think I'd go on and win Player of the Year and four All-Irelands and three All Stars and play in eight finals? I would have laughed the house down if someone told me that when I was 20."
His game-time has been limited in the last two years. It was only in the All-Ireland semi-finals and final that he made his impact in 2014. This year, he was left out of the All-Ireland final side. Had Kerry won, it would have made up his mind for him. Going out at the very top as winning captain held a certain charm. "That's the kind of mindset I suppose was gearing towards," he says. "And when you don't get named for a team for a big game you find you start saying, 'Look if we can find a way to win this, I'll have gone unbelievably higher than I ever expected to have'.
"So I probably would have called it a day at that and that's where I was at. I'll have to see now whether that determines what I'll do next year and that's where I am with it. But if we had to have won the All-Ireland, I probably would have finished up."
He made an impact this year too. When brought on against Dublin, he was did his usual fox in the hen house routine. High balls rained in and feathers flew. Just not enough for him to turn the tide in Kerry's favour as he had done so often before.
He might have gotten a couple of more frees that day but big men in general don't get those calls. It's just a fact of life.
"I think that's just human nature and I don't think people are going to change unless you bring in robots. Human nature is human nature and if you see a big fella and there's some pulling the 'ah he's big enough to look after himself' thing comes into effect - we just have to fight that bit harder. The dainty little corner-forward that goes through and goes down will get the free every time. But the big ball into the square and a fella has you around the neck you mightn't get the call.
"That's just the way it is, nothing is going to change that."
So what of next year? There's his basketball camp to run and a couple more games to play with Stacks. After that, December will be free and there's a new job with PST Sports.
"I have full faith in myself when I get on a field and still believe I have something to offer. But then there is putting in the man hours to get the fitness levels to where they need to be and get the body in shape … you'd have to make sure you can compete.
"It depends on loads of things. I have a wife and a new baby girl and she has come thundering into the house now and everything revolves around her and we are really enjoying that.
"I have a new job starting with PST sports doing artificial pitches around the country and I'm going to be getting stuck into that in January and it will entail driving and trips to Dublin.
"I'll have a lot weighed up by the New Year and have more of an idea where I stand - I'll talk to Eamonn (Fitzmaurice) and the family. They are the main thing and I'll see what their thoughts are. There is a lot to ponder - but I have time on my side."
The Kieran Donaghy basketball camp, in association with MD sports, takes place in Tralee from October 27-30 and a limited number of places are still available. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org