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Gooch still reigns in Kingdom

QUESTION: "So James…how does it feel to be a better footballer than the Gooch?"

James O'Donoghue: "Em…(laughs)…I don't know how to answer that.."

Clearly though, O'Donoghue saw this one coming.

And so he answers with plenty of good grace, some humor and just a dash of embarrassment.

Yesterday, he was in Croke Park to pick up his Opel/GPA Player of the Month award for July, during which he scored 10 points in a Munster final in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.


And since we last spoke, he became an unwitting accessory in an act of verbal sacrilege.

Of all the targets in all of football, Martin McHugh had to pick Colm Cooper or, as O'Donoghue calls him "the most skilful player to ever play."

"I don't know why Martin McHugh said that," he says, shaking his head.

"I think he was trying to give me a compliment. But he brought the Gooch into it out of the blue.

"I don't know what he was trying to do. But he did me no favours anyway."

Flattered at all?

"The first half of it, I was. And then he said the Gooch and I was thinking: 'don't say that…Jeez.'

"Look, nice to get a compliment like that or on The Sunday Game.

"But obviously, down in Kerry, we have huge respect for the Gooch. He's our main man.

"Two trick pony…I think it just came out of his mouth before he had time to think about it."

He took a bit of abuse about it too, as though he had somehow taken McHugh's critique as a sign that in the absence of Kerry's limp pony, he had become their real thoroughbred.

O'Donoghue explains: "People write to you on Twitter saying: 'you're not as good as the Gooch.' And I'm like 'I know! I didn't say it!

"They're quick to throw in a bit of abuse. But look, it's a thing that I try to keep away from and not really comment on it. But all I could say is, everyone around the country has huge time for the Gooch.

"I don't think he deserved to be criticised out of the blue for no reason."

Funnily enough, O'Donoghue is second favourite (after Paul Flynn) to achieve something Cooper never has in his otherwise pristine career; win Footballer of the Year.

Such a gong though, would likely predicated on Kerry not just making the All-Ireland final, but winning it.

In this, he is not unique in anointing Dublin favourites.

"They have this aura about them and they can intimidate teams. When you get to the final or the final, nobody is going to be intimidated by you.

"Of course they are an excellent team but they're definitely not at an unattainable level. They can be beaten. That's for certain.

O'Donoghue adds: "Just because they're playing really, really well at the moment, doesn't mean they can't be beaten."