Saturday 16 February 2019

'I extracted as much as I could out of myself' - Kieran Donaghy explains why he stepped away from Kerry

‘Star’ content to leave Kingdom in rearview mirror as new guard steps in

Star man: Kieran Donaghy has no doubts that he made the right decision to retire. Photo: Sportsfile
Star man: Kieran Donaghy has no doubts that he made the right decision to retire. Photo: Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Kieran Donaghy says there will be part of him wondering if he cashed in his chips too soon when Kerry take to the sward in Killarney or Croke Park later this year.

But that's just the way of things when you leave something behind. Just part of the process of moving on. Underneath, he'll know it was the right call, at the right time.

Donaghy called time before Eamonn Fitzmaurice's successor was announced. It seemed odd not to wait on what the new man had to say but he opted out because he knew himself and knew felt his arm could be twisted to go again.

The Austin Stacks stalwart is also honest enough to admit that the thought of being pushed before he could jump would have wounded him deeply. Best to exit stage left, he thought. The sun had set on 'Star'.

"I did for that for a reason (retired before Peter Keane was installed) because I didn't want the manager coming to me and going, 'Oh, will you stay on, will you give it a year,' or, 'Will you do this' or 'will you do that?'

"Or a manager coming in and going, 'Kieran, you know what, I'm starting afresh. So thanks but no thanks'.

"So both of them eventualities weren't something that appealed to me, I didn't want to face either of them.

"It was a bit a bit of both, afraid that my arm could be twisted (to go back) and afraid that I'd get the phone call or not get the phone call and he goes, 'Kieran, thanks for your 14 years but we're going in another direction'.

"That would be a killer if that would happen. I talked to my family, talked to my wife. We've two young kids and I'm flat out working, basketball is really busy.

"I want to give the club a year or two, there's loads going on and if, I give Kerry another year or two, that means I'll be playing football with the club or trying to play football with the club until I'm 38. 

"It's just not... it's trying to give the club a good year as well before the oul' body begins to wilt on me."

So he'll sit back this year and watch on. There's a new broom sweeping clean in Kerry with Keane and his band of talented if inexperienced youngsters are in charge now. 2019 represents the fifth season since Sam Maguire's last visit to Kerry. And despite the age profile of the team and Dublin's dominance, Donaghy reckons there'll be precious little in way of time afforded to Keane and his new-look team.

"Look, it's never going to change in Kerry, when you put on the jersey people want you to win All-Irelands," Donaghy said at the launch of the 30th edition of the Lidl Comórtas Peile Páidí ó Sé is taking place on the Dingle peninsula from February 15-17.

"If he thinks he's going to get a big two or three years to bring this team through it's not going to happen, that's the reality of it. They'll get the league and they'll get the Munster Championship, then it will be kind of step up to the plate.

"Is it heightened because of the fact Dublin could make history? I don't think so. Kerry will want to win an All-Ireland and if they stop Dublin winning five-in-a-row it will be sweet, but it's not heightened. We haven't won one since '14, that's the reality.

"We went from '09 to '14, which was five years, and that felt like an eternity. I was playing through all them years, lost a final in '11, lost two semis, two quarters, it's not nice when you're in Kerry and you haven't won an All-Ireland in five years.

"We are at that now again, this is '19, we're at the fifth year again. Every year it's adding on."

There's plenty of "special" talent there but Donaghy agrees that Kerry have to tighten up defensively if they are to mount a serious assault on an All-Ireland.

"It is something that we have to do. And I'm sure that's what Peter and Tommy Griffin will be excellent at that, I'd say.

"Very hands on, looking at them with the minors for the last few years. Just watching them out on the field, in talking to the guys.

"Tommy was always very intelligent. Knew where to be at the right time and you have Donie (Buckley) as well. 

"I would say it's a big focus. Kerry forward play, really, if you can get enough ball into them then Kerry forward play will always take care of itself because that's what the game is about in Kerry when you're growing up. 

"We have a lot of good defenders and leaders back there that I'm sure will be looking to put in a good year because I would say that they would know if they put in a really good year as a defensive unit, and get good enough help from the forwards on that side of the ball, and they're tighter and the system is tweaked to improve it, then, yeah... I'm sure that's an area of focus." 

So he'll be a fan this time around, happy to have travelled the road and at the same time envious of the new guard who are just starting out.

"I think I extracted as much as I could out of myself, you know?

"It's a really fast-paced game and I just don't think a fella that's 6 foot 5 and 36 years of age is... doing yourself justice is a big thing in the game and I've been the guy five or six years ago that was struggling with injury, sub, not being used.

"It was fine, it all worked out in the end and that's great but it's when it doesn't work out in the end then you have that kind of sour taste when you finish.

"So I started my last game for Kerry at 35 years of age in Killarney and it was a nice way for me to finish.

"It's as good as it can be at 35, I think. Obviously, fairytale stuff is that you go on to win an All-Ireland and retire like Darragh ó Sé at 35. But that's not the norm."

Irish Independent

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