Saturday 25 January 2020

Donaghy aerial blitz looms large for Mayo as Kingdom shuffle pack


Kieran Donaghy of Kerry. Photo: Sportsfile
Kieran Donaghy of Kerry. Photo: Sportsfile

Martin Breheny and Jackie Cahill

Eleven years after transforming Kerry's season with a switch to full-forward, Kieran Donaghy has re-emerged as a central figure in their bid to reach the All-Ireland final for the 11th time since the turn of the millennium.

Donaghy (34) delivered a man-of-the-match performance against Galway in the quarter-final and will now target the Mayo full-back line in the first of the football semi-finals in Croke Park tomorrow (3.30).

Mayo have already some bad experiences with Donaghy, who set up the goal that helped Kerry snatch a draw in the 2014 semi-final before scoring a goal in the replay, which they won in extra-time. It was thought that he would be deployed as an impact sub this year but forced his way into the starting line-up for the Munster final after impressing in training.

"He gives you something that not too many other players anywhere can give," said manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice.

How Stephen Rochford sets up the Mayo defence to counteract Donaghy's high-fielding expertise remains to seen after he named his team last night with Donal Vaughan listed at full-back, but it proved beyond Cork and Galway and is vital to Mayo's prospects of reaching the final for the fourth time in six seasons.

Fitzmaurice has plumped for experience by making three changes in personnel from the Galway game.

Killian Young, Anthony Maher and Stephen O'Brien earn starts, with Fionn Fitzgerald and Jack Barry dropping to the bench, while Donnchadh Walsh is ruled out through injury.

O'Brien's positioning at left-half-forward could see him pitch up to 2016 Footballer of the Year Lee Keegan, if the fit-again All-Star starts at right half-back.

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Fitzmaurice will be eager to keep Keegan on the back foot and O'Brien has the pace and athleticism to match up against the Westport dynamo.

Young and Maher come in at corner-back and midfield for Fitzgerald and Barry respectively.

Rochford has, not surprisingly, recalled Keegan to his starting line-up, after he was rested for the convincing replay victory over Roscommon.

Hospital treatment on a foot injury prior to that game ruled Keegan out of contention for a starting place - but the manager stated afterwards that he would have been ready to play some part in the game, if required.

Patrick Durcan drops out of the starting line-up to accommodate Keegan's return, in the only change in personnel.

Vaughan, who played against Roscommon at centre-back, is named at No 3 for his 100th competitive appearance in a Mayo shirt (51 league/49 championship).

Meanwhile, the Club Players' Association (CPA) has hit out at Croke Park over proposals to streamline club activities to provide a more balanced fixture programme.

They will be discussed at a Special Congress, but the CPA are unhappy over the various motions.

"It is the view of the CPA that the seven motions fall far short of what is required from the leadership of the organisation.

"Leadership that repeats and uses the rhetoric of the club and the club player being at the centre of the GAA," says a statement issued by CPA chairman Micheál Briody.

The group, who want all of April to be kept free of inter-county games, claims that there is "a serious disconnect and discord between the idea and the reality in the GAA in the current era".

The CPA has contacted all county boards seeking support for maintaining April as a club-only month and for bringing the proposal before Central Council at its next meeting.

Elsewhere, Galway U-21 hurling manager Tony Ward has included his four senior panellists in the team to face Limerick in this evening's Bord Gáis Energy All-Ireland semi-final.

Jack Grealish and Sean Loftus are named in the wing-back positions, with Hurler of the Year Conor Whelan perched at right corner-forward, and Thomas Monaghan at left half-forward.

Irish Independent

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