Wednesday 21 March 2018

Donaghy didn't deserve big stick

Eamonn Sweeney

Kieran Donaghy has been a Chelsea fan since he was a kid. So he was understandably delighted to get the ticket which would enable him to watch them play in the Champions League final against Bayern Munich. Who'd want to miss an occasion like that?

Then Jack O'Connor told him he couldn't go. The Kerry manager found it vital that the Austin Stacks man miss the big game and instead stay and prepare for the Kingdom's Munster championship opener against Tipperary eight days later, a match which, with all due respect to the Premier County, the champions were always going to win.

Donaghy chose Munich and O'Connor reacted by dropping him from the Kerry team to face Tipp.

It looked like a bit of unnecessary muscle-flexing on O'Connor's part, even if a subsequent late appearance at training by Donaghy may have contributed to the decision. What purpose would have been served by having an unhappy Donaghy sitting around at home watching the match on television and wishing he was there? Especially given that we were still in May and a long and gruelling championship season probably lies ahead for Kerry.

I doubt if Donaghy had to think very hard before opting for the Champions League final. And when he did come on against Tipperary, he did well, causing their defence trouble with his aerial ability and winning good ball out the field as Kerry creaked their way to an unimpressive but nevertheless wholly untroubled victory. Then again Donaghy has generally played very well for Kerry. He played very well indeed when he came in at full-forward in the 2004 campaign and changed the course of the season, in all probability saving Jack O'Connor's bacon as an inter-county manager by doing so.

And last year when Kerry trailed by a point late in the All-Ireland final against Dublin, it was Donaghy who produced an absolutely magnificent point which momentarily looked like it had earned them a draw. The big man has always been at his best when Kerry are in a tight spot. He has dug Jack O'Connor out of a few holes in his time.

It's difficult to argue with the Kerry boss given that only one manager in history, a young gentleman by the name of O'Dwyer, has won more All-Ireland football titles. And it's hard to regard Joe Brolly's attack on the Dromid man on last week's Sunday Game as anything other than gratuitously silly attention-seeking from a television troll who in commenting on the football championship generally adopts the attitude of an aristocrat forced to shake hands with a beggar.

But it's even harder to see what was served by O'Connor wielding the big stick in this fashion with one of his key players.

It's not the first time a GAA manager has seemed to ignore the fact that you're not entitled to control every aspect of a player's private life, not least because you're not paying his wages.

Kieran Donaghy deserved better from Jack O'Connor.

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