Wednesday 24 January 2018

Freedom of park breathes new life into 'Star'

Kieran Donaghy begins to dissect THAT kick. There are several strands to it and a bit of background, too, that need explaining.

Ultimately, it was the foothold Mayo needed to plunder Kerry's four-point lead and take their league semi-final to extra-time, making Donaghy the fall guy.

He enters a guilty plea, but there are conditions. Paul Galvin had been standing on his own for too long on the other side of the field and others in the chain had failed to notice him.

Donaghy had been pointing and shouting at them to switch direction and hit Galvin on the other side.

But they overlooked his instruction and so he decided to take matters into his own hand.

"I saw Paul and I had been shouting at guys to switch it out to him before that.

" So, I think it was more frustration than anything else. I said: 'If you're not going to switch it, then I'm going to switch it.'

"It was half almost in temper, because I knew he was over there and he was calling for it when other guys had the ball.


"I rushed it number one, it was a bad kick number two and I didn't see Alan Dillon number three. So, it was a comedy of errors that led to Mayo getting back into the game.

"You beat yourself up about it when you make a mistake, but you have to get on with it. And we got on with it. We got back into the lead and they got a fortuitous goal, as good a goal as it was for Mayo fans, I don't know how he (Colm Boyle) got the shot off and it went in. We got back into the game and made a few more mistakes.

"I beat myself up about it because I pride myself on being smart on the field and making the right decisions as much as I can. I made a bad decision."

It spoiled an otherwise productive league -- five wins, one draw and one defeat, plenty of new legs introduced and bedded down successfully, plenty of enthusiasm from older legs. Yet the only conclusion drawn is that Kerry are becoming brittle down the home stretch at Croke Park. Harsh? Maybe so.

It was a strange league for 'Star' in other ways. On the Friday before the Cork game at Pairc Ui Chaoimh, his father, Oliver, passed away in Tyrone.

It left him with a decision to make. Cork in the 'Pairc' is always a big one for Kerry, league or championship.

So, he imagined what his father would have wanted and took the decision to play.

"I had to think twice about it and it was a hard decision to make. He died on the Friday afternoon and I didn't know what the story with the funeral was.

"Then the funeral wasn't going to be till the Monday, so I knew on the Sunday there was a possibility that I was going to be playing. Jack (O'Connor) was kind of billing it as a big game for us and I know well he (his father) would have wanted me to play anyway.

"As much as I was trying to deal with him dying, after the initial shock of that you just get back to being a footballer. You try to do what you do best and try to help your team win a game. That's what I tried to do."

The league also gave him release from the pressures of being the team's full-forward and 'possession' man for so long.

Last summer that pressure weighed heavily on Donaghy to the point where it was being openly discussed as to whether Kerry's game plan was being dictated by his presence on the field. Jack O'Shea was one who suggested that Donaghy should be dropped for the All-Ireland final against Dublin.

He wasn't, of course, and went on to have a very decent match. He was 'pumped up' for it and let his emotions spill over at times, but that was understandable with the build-up he had endured.

The management restored him to wing-forward -- where he had started the All-Ireland final -- for the league and the open prairies recharged the batteries.

"It did benefit me to get out around there and start enjoying the game again. At full-forward you are very tightly marked, you are constantly being tugged and dragged. It was great to get out around the middle, get a ball and turn around and there's no one on you," he said.

"I haven't experienced that in a long, long time.

"It was good to get out there and get communicating with fellas, talking to fellas and feel maybe a bit more part of the game.

"At full-forward you can feel very isolated. When the ball is coming in and you're winning it, it's great. But if the other team is on top you can feel helpless enough.

"I even find myself going out there and knowing myself that I shouldn't be out there, because we're not in the game, and I want to get my hands on the ball.

"It was definitely enjoyable to get out in that area of the field."

Given his aerial prowess, Donaghy is one of the players expected to benefit most from the relaxation of the square ball rule that has come into effect for the championship.

Unlike his attacking colleague Colm Cooper, who last week predicted chaos, Donaghy sees real merit in the change.

"I think what they have done is a good idea. It will speed it up in normal play and make it that bit easier for umpires in live play.

"It will just be a case now of lifting up the green flag now unless the ref calls a foul on the goalie.

"I think it's good that the old rule applies from a dead ball, because otherwise you'd just have carnage, with 10 or 12 lads in around the small square and ball going in.

"I think they have made a good job of it and it's good to see them making changes."

Irish Independent

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