Tuesday 20 February 2018

O'Neill salutes Donaghy return as O'Sullivan is forced to retire

Kieran Donaghy looks to extend his career with Kerry in 2016
Kieran Donaghy looks to extend his career with Kerry in 2016

Michael Verney

Former Kerry coach/selector Cian O'Neill is "delighted" that Kieran Donaghy looks set to extend his Kingdom career in 2016.

Donaghy's return to form turned Kerry's 2014 season on its head with the towering full-forward capping off a magnificent comeback with the all-important goal in their All-Ireland final win over Donegal.

As captain this season, Donaghy struggled to nail down a starting berth and doubts remained about his future in the green and gold before he expressed his wish to stay on Radio Kerry on Monday night.

O'Neill believes the 32-year-old still has a lot to offer at inter-county level. "Kieran gives so much, in so many ways," he said.

"People see him on the pitch and he's a larger-than-life character, but he's a great character off the pitch and he's good in the dressing-room.

"He has a great cerebral influence on a game. Obviously, his basketball background and skill-set comes in there. I took responsibility for Kerry's forward play and he always had great ideas and things to say about the game."

Having worked with Donaghy for three years, the current Kildare boss feels that the Austin Stacks attacker can still play a pivotal role if he can stay injury-free.

"I think it would have been a huge loss for the squad and for Eamonn and the management if he did step down," he said. "He has lots to offer. Like everyone at that stage of their career, it's keeping him injury-free, keeping him healthy and the conditioning will come over time."

Meanwhile, former double All-Ireland-winning captain Declan O'Sullivan has announced his retirement from club football following surgery on a problematic knee injury.

O'Sullivan said: "After my operation sadly my football journey is over. Thank you to Dromid Pearses, South Kerry and Kerry, it's been an honour."

In 2007, O'Sullivan became the first man to lift Sam Maguire twice since Dublin's Tony Hanahoe and the three-time All-Star was often credited as the man who made the illustrious Kerry forward line tick.

The 31-year-old had limited involvement with Dromid Pearses this year but he still played a key role off the bench as South Kerry, his divisional side, ensured a fitting career finale with a county final win over Legion last month.

Irish Independent

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