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It's not about me getting 10 out of 10, it's about winning: Donaghy

KIERAN Donaghy is the first to admit that this certainly hasn't been a vintage year for the iconic full-forward, when judged against his own high standards.

One of the game's biggest box-office draws, the Kerry No 14, known by his nickname 'Star,' has struggled to leave his footprint on the championship this season in the same way he has in the past. He knows this too. Hence the frustration.

Take the All-Ireland semi-final against Mayo as a prime example. Donaghy himself expected a big performance, one to finally ignite his own form, which has trundled on from game to game. It didn't happen.

"Ger Cafferkey is a good full-back and he gave me plenty of it. He caught a few balls over me and broke a few balls and certainly frustration grows. You have to try other things to get yourself going, get a turnover or something," Donaghy explained.

"It's not about Kieran Donaghy getting 10 out of 10 in the paper, it's about how Kerry do on the final scoreboard. I think a lot of our players are like that and that is why we've had a lot of success over the last six or seven years.

"We're a very team-orientated group of players and whatever it takes the next day will be done."

And while there is no doubting that an in-form Donaghy is one of the greatest sights in the game, the Austin Stacks man hasn't delivered a really top-level display for some time. Is this a reason to worry? Or, more interestingly, is Donaghy's struggle for form due to the evolution of Gaelic football?

When he burst onto the scene with his virtuoso displays at full-forward in 2006, it was all thanks to the Kingdom's direct-route style that caught the rest of the country on the hop.

But the game has moved on since then, explains Donaghy, and to his expense it seems.

"Systems have changed (since '06). Teams are dropping men back, forwards back. If we play as naively as we did in '06 in this final, I think Dublin would swallow that up. We will have to have a very different approach the next day," said the Tralee man.

Indeed, Kerry will need to improve on their National League loss to Dublin in February too, if Donaghy is to win his fourth Celtic Cross.

"It (Kerry's long-ball tactic of '06) wasn't naive then, but it would be now," the Ulster Bank official said.

"If you look at the league game against Dublin this year we started shaky enough. Dublin were putting serious pressure on us out the field and we were just lumping ball in. They had a big fella playing full-back and they were breaking it down and sweeping out. That's their game.


"They are very good once they start moving the ball up the field at speed. We were really chasing the game from the start. Over time, teams adapt. We probably already saw a bit of it with Donegal and Dublin."

As the game has changed, so has Donaghy's game. Instead of being the focal point of the Kerry attack -- that's what he built his reputation on -- his job specifications are different.

"A bit of everything. I try and do a lot of jobs for the team to the best of my ability and whether it is winning ball out in front or winning it high or going out getting a few kick-outs or tackling defenders, it's whatever the management decides," Donaghy said.

"Games change -- they might want something different from me and I have learned to adapt in the last year or two. I have said it before: I wouldn't care if I didn't touch the ball as long as Kerry got over the line."

While Donaghy's own form has been patchy at best this season, he can only watch on and hail Dublin's three wise men, Alan Brogan, Bernard Brogan and Diarmuid Connolly.

"That is a scary trio. Looking at the way they dismantled a Tyrone team that notoriously doesn't get dismantled is a worry for us," Donaghy said.

"You can't go on that semi-final (Dublin's defeat of Donegal), so we are really going on that quarter-final. The scores they kicked that day, they just tore them apart.

"When it rained beforehand I said to my girlfriend that it could suit Tyrone with the wet, greasy ball. But Dublin took it to an unbelievable level and set the bar up there for the rest of us to try and reach."

Irish Independent