KIERAN DONAGHY was yesterday unveiled as the GAA/GPA Footballer of the Month for September, the month that crowned his spectacular comeback as an All-Ireland winning Kerry totem, writes Frank Roche.
Back at the start of August, however, the man called 'Star' was of a mind to "slip off into the sunset" at the end of the season. After a string of injury setbacks, he finally felt fit and primed. Yet, as Éamonn Fitzmaurice emptied his bench during the second half of Kerry's quarter-final against Galway, Donaghy was left sitting.
"I always said my motto would be when I felt I couldn't help the team any more, I would pack it in," he explained. "And not helping the team in my eyes was not contributing on the field of play and that was the first time I have been fit, relatively fit, since 2005 where I haven't been called upon.
"I was in a bad place, I will be honest. My confidence was low - I was kind of half-doubting myself, could I still do it?
"It was never in my head to pull the plug. I wouldn't do that because it would upset the rhythm of the team and then Éamonn would be going in to a semi-final having to answer questions why I pulled out ... but what I was (planning) was slip off into the sunset whenever we got beaten or won it."
How did he feel on the bench that day? "I'd be the ultimate positive guy. I remember that day, waiting for a call, looking down and seeing the boys waiting below and thinking 'It has to be me'. Next thing, someone else, f***.
"That day, for the last 10 or 15 minutes, I nearly spent more time watching what they (the management) were doing than what was going on out in the field," Donaghy admitted.
"But it didn't come and it was a lonely old drive down. I think it was a Bank Holiday weekend and everyone was going out, but I just went home and got onto the couch and put down a tough enough night of just thinking."
The following Tuesday night, at training, Fitzmaurice "knew by my body language" that he wasn't his usual "buzzy" self. "He said, 'You are in my plans for down the line, I promise you that, and keep it going in training - you are coming good'. And I said, 'No problem, Éamonn, that's grand'."
And the rest is history.