'Kerry were ailing - he rejuvenated them and gave them backbone' - Joe Brolly pays glowing tribute to Kieran Donaghy
Joe Brolly has hailed Kieran Donaghy as the 'most influential full forward of his generation' after the Kerry star announced his retirement from inter-county football today.
Donaghy won four All-Irelands, three All Stars and a Footballer of the Year award during a memorable 14-season career in the green and gold that kicked into life after he was moved into the full forward position in 2006.
The then 23-year-old's four-game run in the position resurrected Kery's championship hopes, with the team eventually demolishing Mayo in that year's All-Ireland final.
Donaghy remained a massive threat to opposition defenders for the rest of his career, even assisting David Clifford's dramatic late goal against Monaghan in the Super 8s last July.
Speaking to Independent.ie today to reflect on Donaghy's career, Brolly - who the Kerry forward famously called out after winning the 2014 All-Ireland final against Donegal - paid a glowing tribute to the 35-year-old.
"Kieran exemplifies all that is good about sport," Brolly said.
"An eternal passion for the game, his obvious enjoyment when he played. That Kerry team were ailing and he rejuvenated and gave them backbone. It was impossible to cow Kieran Donaghy. His aggression was the right side of the line and he was just a terrific sportsman."
Brolly feels that Donaghy's illustrious career and performance in big games means that he will be classed among the all-time great full forwards, alongside Kerry legend Eoin 'The Bomber' Liston.
"He is the greatest high fetcher in the history of Gaelic football," Brolly added.
"It was impossible to give Kieran Donaghy a bad ball. His record in All-Ireland finals is sensational. His goals, his pugnacious approach. He could sink another team, the way he sank the Armagh team that Kerry had great trouble with. He ravaged and destroyed Cork and Mayo teams in All-Ireland finals.
"When he came in he had the reputation of being the 'new Bomber' and he absolutely lived up to it. There can be no doubt that he was the most influential full forward of his generation."
In recent years Donaghy had to be satisfied with cameo appearances as Eamonn Fitzmaurice often opted to spring the veteran from the bench. Brolly says that Kerry would have benefited from Donaghy being started more regularly, and thinks that goals like Clifford's cracker in Clones would have been regular occurences.
"I think that Eamonn made a fundamental mistake," Brolly said.
"When they got out of the habit of using Kieran, then when they did bring him in he was often left isolated on the edge of the square. As you saw in the Monaghan game, it was desparation stakes and James O'Donoghue drove the ball in and Kieran won it with four men hanging off him.
"Fitzmaurice made the mistake of using him in cameo roles instead of having a Plan A and Plan B that worked in tandem that would have been a great help to that Kerry team and to the younger players coming into it.