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10 principles that guided Kingdom's return to power

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Kieran Donaghy's impact has transformed two championships for Kerry, eight years apart. They may not have won either without his intervention. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Kieran Donaghy's impact has transformed two championships for Kerry, eight years apart. They may not have won either without his intervention. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

After Colm Cooper's cruciate rupture in February, the pressure of expectation was lifted from Kerry. Picture credit: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE

After Colm Cooper's cruciate rupture in February, the pressure of expectation was lifted from Kerry. Picture credit: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

Cian O'Neill, right, was the first 'outside' selector on a Kingdom management team.  Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Cian O'Neill, right, was the first 'outside' selector on a Kingdom management team. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

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Kieran Donaghy's impact has transformed two championships for Kerry, eight years apart. They may not have won either without his intervention. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

1 Kerry always adapt - The 1955 All-Ireland football final between Dublin and Kerry was pitched as a battle of extremes between radicalism and convention. Kevin Heffernan had opened Gaelic football's eyes to the deployment of a roving full-forward.

Dublin took All-Ireland champions Meath for five goals in the Leinster final that year and with a team hewn entirely from city natives the game felt an overwhelming swell of innovation that stirred great unease across the country.

But Kerry managed to lock down Heffernan that afternoon and the game felt a curiously sense of security once more.

Their capacity to modify, adapt and reinvent would manifest again in the 1960s to meet the challenge of Down's passing game and the power and athleticism of Heffo's Dubs in the 1970s.

Meeting the challenge of the 'blanket' defence has been slower and has required more compromising of established principles. But after more than a decade giving chase, any lingering pride has been swallowed for the benefit of pragmatism.

2 Never mind the quality - feel the width

A 37th All-Ireland title secured with a victory that had to be dug out. Kerry simply had to meet fire with fire. If that meant resorting to cynical tugs and pulls, they were happy to do that. If it meant running down the clock, then that was fine too. But let's not conceal the fact that it was as ugly as anything produced. Just because it's Kerry doesn't change that.

3 Two All-Ireland titles with 'Star' quality

He won't make any 'greatest' ever Kerry football team but when the audit of this era is being conducted, Kieran Donaghy's importance to it will be enshrined. He has, quite simply, transformed two championships eight years apart. Kerry may not have won either without his intervention.

4 From now on ignore the underage picture

Wednesday April 6, 2011: Munster U-21 final - Cork 2-24, Kerry 0-8.

Five of Kerry's starting team last Sunday - Brian Kelly, Peter Crowley, Stephen O'Brien, James O'Donoghue and Paul Geaney - started for Kerry in Pairc Ui Rinn on that humiliating night. A substitute, Barry John Keane, also started. Five more of the current squad too saw action, bringing the number of the current senior squad involved to 11. It was the worst night in Kerry's underage history. But translate to senior and it clearly has had no impact. The moral is that nothing operates in straight lines. Kerry haven't won any of the last six Munster U-21 titles.

5 And ignore league form too

Okay, it's lovely to win a league and the best teams will normally feature in the penultimate stages. But it's not an absolute imperative. Kerry have won just six of their last 14 league games under Fitzmaurice in two years. We won't fret for them again.

6 The important of status

"There was a quiz question around Kerry. Who are the only Kerry All Stars never to win All-Irelands. I was part of that question and I never wanted to be. Then Eamonn said at the start of the year - you don't want to be in that category. You want to be an All-Ireland winner. It stirred something inside me that I knew I was going to give it the biggest lash of all time." - James O'Donoghue in a sunlit Ballsbridge yesterday morning. Could a player from any other county say those words with such conviction?

7 Comeback kids

David Moran, Peter Crowley and Kieran Donaghy didn't start either the Munster final against Cork or the All-Ireland quarter-final against Galway but all three are in strong positions to be named All Stars next month. Donaghy, Moran and Killian Young have had a torrid time with injuries but stuck with it.

8 No pressure

From the moment that stopped a county last February with news of Colm Cooper's cruciate rupture, the pressure of expectation lifted from Kerry and they were able to thrive in that environment.

9 Welcoming an outsider

On these pages Eamonn Fitzmaurice has namechecked the football and strength and conditioning coaching of Kildare man Cian O'Neill and what it added to Kerry. He was the first 'outside' selector on a Kingdom management team. It didn't work out too bad, did it?

10 Faith

They didn't score in the second half of his opening league match as manager against Mayo in February 2013. But Eamonn Fitzmaurice declared his faith in their young players, stuck with them and reaped ultimate rewards.

Irish Independent