'James O’Donoghue can be better than ever' – Donnchadh Walsh issues warning to Kerry rivals
Kerry forward Donnchadh Walsh has tipped 2014 All Stars Footballer of the Year James O'Donoghue to be better than ever this season after a couple of injury ravaged seasons with Kerry and Killarney Legion.
O'Donoghue made his return to the Kerry starting lineup for last weekend's Munster SFC semi-final against Clare, where the All-Star corner-forward scored nine of Kerry's 18 points in a six point win at Cusack Park in Ennis.
The win marked O'Donoghue's first start for the Kingdom since last year's All-Ireland final loss to Dublin, and Walsh predicts that his fellow All-Star can now put his shoulder and calf issues behind him and be better than he ever has been before.
"We obviously saw the best of him last Sunday and that's great when he produces the stuff on the championship day," said Walsh, speaking at the SuperValu Get Behind The Ball launch at Croke Park on Thursday.
"We have had a big break there since the league win and there was a lot of club games and county championship games going on.
"Obviously I didn't get to see James play with his club, but the word was that he was going well and moving well.
He's been moving well at training then so is he back to his best? I think he can probably be even better this year hopefully. James is an exciting player.
"He needs the rub of the green as well like with injuries. He's only as good as we can make him with the quality of ball that he gets.
"The better James O'Donoghue is playing, the better the outfield players are getting ball to him, so it works both ways.”
Despite pulling away with an ultimately comfortable six point win, Kerry were forced to work for their scores in the second-half with both teams level heading into the break.
However, Kerry would head into the interval with only 14 men after Walsh was sent off in the 34th minute for a second yellow card after colliding with Martin McMahon on the ground.
As he sat in the away dressing room at Cusack Park, Walsh said that he kept having flashbacks to Clare's famed win over Kerry in 1992, Clare's last win over the Kingdom in what was aptly described as one of the great Gaelic Football shocks of modern times.
"I was very disappointed at the time but I was kind of having flashbacks of maybe 25 years previous to 92' when Clare last beat Kerry," added Walsh.
"I soon refocused myself and said ‘how can I be a positive influence on this dressing room?' Because obviously we need to improve in the second-half to win it.
"I quickly just said a quick word with myself and said ‘look, it's about the team winning' and I just tried to contribute positively to the lads to help them some way to the performance.
"The performance they put in in the second-half was brilliant. We dug out a good win in the end.”
Kerry will now play Cork in next month's Munster SFC final at Fitzgerald Stadium in Killarney after the original venue of Páirc Uí Chaoimh was scrapped after the Cork County Board were informed that the scheduled handover date of June 18 would not be met.
SUPERVALU GETS BEHIND THE BALL THIS SUMMER WITH THE GAA
Ireland's Leading Retailer Will Donate 55,000 Footballs To GAA Clubs Across The Country. As a long-standing sponsor of the GAA All Ireland Football Championships, SuperValu is getting #BehindTheBall this summer and is set to reinforce its unwavering support and commitment to local communities across Ireland by introducing a new campaign that will help inspire the future stars of the GAA and encourage more people to volunteer for their local GAA club.
Subscribe to The Throw-In, Independent.ie's weekly Championship podcast, for the best in GAA discussion and analysis every Monday, with some of the biggest names in football and hurling from Joe Brolly, Tomás Ó'Sé, Brendan Cummins and John Mullane.