Monday 19 February 2018

O'Connor keeps faith in Donaghy

Kieran Donaghy
Kieran Donaghy
Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

Kerry boss Jack O'Connor has kept faith with misfiring forward star Kieran Donaghy for tomorrow's winner-takes-all tussle with fierce rivals Tyrone in the All-Ireland SFC qualifiers.

The totemic Austin Stacks man has struggled to find his form this summer and was hauled ashore scoreless when the Kingdom squeezed through against Westmeath last weekend.

But, after a week of debate about whether O'Connor should start him, or where best to position him, the manager has stayed loyal and selected the old guard who won Kerry a famous 'back door' All-Ireland in similar circumstances in 2009 when it took them a long time to hit top gear.

For the second week in a row he has given Colm Cooper the unfamiliar No 14 jersey and named Donaghy at corner-forward, but Kerry are expected to operate a two-man full-forward line as they did last week, with James O'Donoghue given a more roving brief.

There is just one change from the starting 15 against Westmeath, with Shane Enright replacing the less experienced Brian Maguire in defence, though Enright starts at corner-back and Killian Young moves out to the wing.

As expected, Darran O'Sullivan, who wasn't able to start last week due to a tight hamstring, is held in reserve.

O'Connor pulled a clever ploy straight out of the Mickey Harte playbook last Sunday by throwing the less than fit Glenbeigh/Glencar star in at half-time and withdrawing him after 26 minutes, by which time he had scored a goal and helped Kerry come back from six points down.

Getting O'Sullivan in and out of the game quickly ensured that he did not exacerbate his injury niggle, and it looks likely that Kerry will use him in a similar manner in Killarney tomorrow.

Tyrone, meanwhile, recall Stephen O'Neill to their starters in the only change from last week's victory over Roscommon. The former Footballer of the Year has recovered from a calf injury and replaces Jonathan Lafferty.

For Meath, Kevin Reilly has recovered full fitness to return to the full-back spot ahead of Sunday's Leinster final against Dublin. Bryan Menton, who did so well there against Kildare, moves out to left half-back and Mickey Burke switches back to the corner, with Ciaran Lenihan losing out.


In the only other change of personnel, Stephen Bray comes into the forwards in place of Cian Ward and, in one other positional switch, Brian Meade is named to partner Conor Gillespie in midfield, with Graham Reilly starting at his more usual half-forward spot.

Donegal have made just one change for the Ulster football final, with Leo McLoone edging out Martin McElhinney to replace injured midfielder Neil Gallagher and David Walsh included despite some injury doubts.

Gallagher injured ankle ligaments playing a league game for his club Glenswilly, and a visit to a specialist at Dublin's Beacon Hospital last week confirmed his worst fears.

McLoone had started against Cavan and Derry but made way for Rory Kavanagh ahead of the semi-final win over Tyrone. But the Glenties man now returns and is named at centre-half forward, with Ryan Bradley now partnering Kavanagh in midfield.

"There are situations where people are left out but we've said all along it's horses for courses," manager Jim McGuinness said when announcing his team last night.

"We know ourselves how we want to pick the team for us and how we want to pick it for the opposition. They understand we're trying to win matches, and if someone is left out it's never ever personal."

Limerick football captain Ger Collins, who missed last week's victory against Longford, returns for tomorrow's qualifier clash with Kildare in Portlaoise.

Seanie Johnston will have to be content with a sub's role again for Kildare as the Lilywhites have named the same starting 15 that beat Cavan to play Limerick tomorrow.

DONEGAL (SF v Down) -- P Durcan; P McGrath, N McGee, F McGlynn; E McGee, K Lacey, A Thompson; R Bradley, R Kavanagh; David Walsh, L McLoone, M McHugh; P McBrearty, M Murphy, C McFadden.

LIMERICK (SF v Kildare) -- S Scanlon; A Lane, J McCarthy, L O'Dwyer; J Riordan, S Lucey, P Ranahan; J Donovan, S Buckley; E O'Connor, S Kelly, P Brown; G Collins, S O'Carroll, I Ryan.

MEATH (SF v Dublin) -- D Gallagher; D Keogan, K Reilly, M Burke; D Tobin, S McAnarney (Capt), B Menton; C Gillespie, B Meade; A Forde, D Carroll, G Reilly; B Farrell, J Sheridan, S Bray.

KERRY (SF v Tyrone) -- B Kealy; M O Se, A O'Mahony, S Enright; T O Se, E Brosnan, K Young; A Maher, B Sheehan; P Galvin, Declan O'Sullivan, D Walsh; J O'Donoghue, C Cooper, K Donaghy.

Tyrone (SF) -- P McConnell; A McCrory, C Clarke, D Carlin; C McCarron, C Gormley, Sean O'Neill; J McMahon, C Cavanagh; Mattie Donnelly, Mark Donnelly, P Harte; M Penrose, S O'Neill, O Mulligan.

KILDARE (SF v Limerick) - S Connolly; A McLochlainn, P Kelly, H McGrillen; E Bolton, M O'Flaherty, E Doyle; M Foley, R Kelly; E O'Flaherty, M Conway, J Doyle; J Kavanagh, T O'Connor, A Smith.

Irish Independent

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