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New double act are leading from front

IN 2009, there was (Kieran) Donaghy and (Tommy) Walsh, or the 'twin towers,' as they somewhat inevitably and not particularly originally, became known.

Previously, there was the Gooch and (Declan) O'Sullivan, a variation on the Gooch/Mike Frank (Russell) axis that went before; itself an evolution from the Mike Frank/Johnny Crowley duet.

And in 1997, really, there was just Maurice Fitz.

MILLION

(James) O'Donoghue and (Paul) Geaney doesn't yet have the same instantly identifiable peal to it but with each passing performance this year, they don't look a million miles off an All-Ireland winning Kerry inside forward partnership either.

"The lads are playing well," says selector, Diarmuid Murphy, with more than a dabble of Kerry understatement.

"Potential isn't always enough when it comes to inter-county football. There's a lot more that you have to put into the mix as well.

"You don't know how certain lads will react when they get their chance but so far the boys have been playing well."

Well?

Talk to Cork and Galway about O'Donoghue and Geaney playing "well".

In the Munster final, they kicked 13 points between them (O'Donoghue 0-10, Geaney 0-3) and just two of those were frees from the former.

Against Galway, O'Donoghue scored 1-5 from play but it should have been 2-5 after one of the most stylish wides you'll see in the second half, while Geaney managed 0-4 (1f).

If the football public has been slow to universally acclaim Paul Geaney and James O'Donoghue, that's probably just because they were so used to seeing the same players in the Kerry attacking positions for so long. We were all just getting over Gooch's injury, Galvin's retirement, Donaghy's loss of form and Declan O'Sullivan's redeployment when these two started setting their own standards.

Last year, in particular, O'Donoghue exploded from partially unknown outside Kerry to arguably the most dangerous inside forward in Ireland.

Oddly, he is, along with Connie Murphy (1989) only the second Kerry player to hold an All Star but not an All-Ireland medal. And he has spoken ad nauseum about putting that particular fact to bed.

"I think there is a big hunger in the group and probably a bit of an unknown quantity about it," says Eamonn Fitzmaurice of the odd fact that, of the team that played against Galway, more than half had no Celtic Cross.

"Because lads that have won All-Irelands medals, there is often reference points in a season or reference points in a game … reference points in training where you can say 'that worked well for me before and we won the All-Ireland that year'.

"So for the lads, there is probably a bit of feeling their way in relation to that stuff. But I hope that it is not too far away that they will win an All-Ireland medal and they will grow further when that does happen," adds the Kerry manager.

This season, while the Legion man has continued the theme, Geaney has joined him in breathing thinner air.

"Paul is an excellent player," says Fitzmaurice.

"The way James is playing at the moment he is taking a lot of the plaudits but all of the other forwards are working very well around him.

"Because of James's capabilities, he is going to get a lot of attention as well, but all of the lads up front have been doing very well for us over the course of the championship.

"Even if James is going to be marked very tightly; hopefully we will have enough of ammo elsewhere to get enough on the scoreboard."

Says O'Donoghue of his former minor captain: "He (Geaney) had a few injuries, bad hamstrings, bad back.

"He kind of struggled to get a bit of momentum to get into the team but he was always knocking on the door. He's a pure natural player, left and right, very intelligent. He will always give you the pass if you're in the right position. It's nice to play with someone like that."

Together, they present an ever more elaborate repertoire of threats.

After O'Donoghue torching of Galway, Alan Mulholland was asked why it was that the Tribesmen had not utilised a second marker on him.

His response was that they tried, but the movement of both he and Geaney had rendered the tactic ineffective.

For one, Fitzmaurice isn't expecting anything similar from Mayo on Sunday.

"Traditionally, unless the other team drops a man (back), they are not a team that goes two-on-one inside and leave a man free out the field," he pointed out.

"I think they are confident enough in the way they play."

Confidence has never been an asset any football team from Kerry has lacked and there is a growing certainty that, even without one of their great players (Colm Cooper) and despite the presence of one of football's strongest teams these past couple of decades (Dublin), there's an All-Ireland there for Kerry in 2014.

O'Donoghue and Geaney are probably at the root of such thinking.

"I still think that James and Paul," surmises Murphy, "the way they're playing, there's a lot more in them, and we can get a lot more out of them."

 

I still think that James and Paul . . . there's a lot more in them, and we can get a lot more out of them.

- Diarmuid Murphy


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