Thursday 14 December 2017

Donaghy's absence a mystery because Kerry can't afford to be without him this summer

Paidi O Se

Selecting a talisman on the bench doesn't help Kerry prospects, writes Páidí ó Sé

The main talking point in Kerry ahead of today's game against Tipperary is the exclusion of Kieran Donaghy from the team.

As a former manager, I don't like to make comments on decisions that managers make. I know from my own experience that nobody knows better than the manager what is happening in the camp. Being on the outside looking in, it's difficult to know what's going on but I would think this is a strange option to take. In my opinion, Donaghy is an invaluable asset to the Kerry team and not only for his work at full-forward.

At the end of the day he, more than any other Kerry player, has been responsible for turning losing games into victories. When he was moved into the corner of the square he gave Kerry umpteen valuable choices and as well as that he brought the likes of Colm Cooper and Declan O'Sullivan and the other forwards into games. He fulfilled a similar role to the one played by Bomber Liston in Kerry teams of the 1970s.

This is a Kerry team in a period of transition with lots of experienced players stepping aside and the management probably want to experiment with different options and new ideas. They might have thought that they could use Kieran Donaghy to better effect by moving him but there are some players who are at their most effective when they are played in their best position. Darragh Ó Sé, Mick O'Connell and Pat Spillane were Kerry players who prospered when they were used in their best positions and Kieran Donaghy is another.

As I said before, I would never question any manager's decisions but I would certainly say that if Kerry are to win silverware this year, they need Kieran Donaghy to start. They won't win anything this year without him on the field. He is that important to the cause. Whatever about playing him on the bench today, I hope this exercise doesn't backfire on them later on in the year. I would hope that Kerry will get this man on the field as soon as possible today.

There is always a spring in players' steps when the championship starts. Not being disrespectful to Tipperary but Kerry have what should be a good game to ease them into the championship. Tipperary are making great strides in underage football. They came from behind at half-time against Kerry last year in the minor championship to beat them by a point and went on to win the Munster final and the All-Ireland. This year they came down here and beat Kerry and won away to Cork also. They have made inroads at under 21 level as well.

John Evans stepped down as manager earlier this year and Tipperary have a new management team in place, led by Peter Creedon. Looking at the team, they seem to have gone with players who have impressed at underage level over the last couple of years. I believe that there is a good foundation for Tipperary to work with over the next four or five years.

Marc Ó Sé is injured but that opens the door for Daniel Bohan who comes in at full-back. It's nice to see that Paddy Curtin from north Kerry is starting. He is a player with a lot of raw strength and potential and in my view if he is properly managed he has a bright future. It will be an interesting game but Kerry should win.

Meath are suffering from injury problems and have brought in four new players but they should still have enough to beat Wicklow at Dr Cullen Park this afternoon.

The game will attract a lot of interest as people from all over the country will be curiously watching the body language of the Meath team, looking for clues about how they got over the most recent controversy with their manager and the amount of dirty linen they aired in public. I think, for many people, that will be the most interesting part of the game. Everyone will be looking to see how Meath have picked up the pieces.

It's a no-win situation for the management today even if they beat Wicklow comprehensively because in Meath they will be expected to win this game. Seamus McEnaney and his selectors and backroom staff will be concerned with getting out of Carlow with a win and getting on to the next game. I think they can certainly do that.

I was in Longford last Sunday and the one thing I took from that game was the importance of home advantage for teams. It showed me how important playing in your own field is, more so than playing in front of your supporters.

It's not to take away from Longford's win but they kicked some scores and their forwards took on shots that they probably wouldn't have done playing in another pitch

Laois learned nothing from the league. They placed too much emphasis on building a few scores and then trying to defend a lead.

I was critical of Kerry in a previous column for employing defensive tactics like this in last year's All-Ireland final and in the league semi-final against Mayo. It's negative football and not very pleasant to watch. Dublin also do this to a certain extent but their fitness levels allow them to get up and down the field quickly. It's the idea that when you lose possession no matter where you are, you come back. Dublin are more tidy about how they do it whereas Laois were sloppy.

Cavan is a passionate county with a proud tradition and I think an awful lot of Cavan people will be hurting over the loss of Seanie Johnston. He was a bright star and had many great outings in the Cavan jersey.

It's not unprecedented for players to transfer between counties as the great Larry Tompkins left Kildare and Martin Carney moved from Donegal to Mayo. I wish Seanie Johnston the very best and it's now time for everyone to move on.

Irish Independent Sport Star Awards

Pick our magic sports moment of the year and win a trip for two to London. To view the shortlist and cast your vote click here.

Sunday Indo Sport

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport