Reward outweighs risk as county break benefits Buckley
There is always a risk for any team player in stepping off a whirring treadmill during a season to buy time for an injury.
When Johnny Buckley took time out after captaining Dr Crokes to an All-Ireland club success in March he knew the perils of such a decision in Kerry, where they are backing up with midfield and forward cover.
He could have gone straight back into it, as his Crokes colleague Fionn Fitzgerald did, especially as captain.
Kieran Donaghy had done much the same in 2015 as he took over the leadership role, stepping straight from Austin Stacks's All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Slaughtneil into a tempestuous league match between Dublin and Kerry in Killarney.
But wise counsel for Buckley prevailed as he considered the impact of an aching knee which needed time.
"I sat down at the start of the year after the semi-final win with Crokes (against Corofin) and looked at a plan. At the time we felt the body wasn't right, I was struggling with my knee and knowing that going straight back in with Kerry wasn't a wise decision," he said.
"I know Fionn went back in and played great stuff but it was just a decision we made at the time. The footballing instinct inside you says: 'go back playing straight away', but I must say Colm Fuller, who is working with us and is a clubmate of mine, he said: 'this is the right thing to do and stick with it'.
"It's been a different kind of season to what you're used to. Crokes going on to March put a totally different spin on it and in fairness to Éamonn (Fitzmaurice) and the lads, we sat down after that and I knew the body wasn't right at the time.
"Knowing that, going straight into Kerry training, and all that went with it at the end of the league, probably wasn't the right thing to do."
He spent the day of the league final win over Dublin at home immersed in TV coverage as they finally brought an end to Dublin's two-year-plus unbeaten sequence.
"It was a bit surreal, I was just watching the game at home with herself and I turned into a Kerry supporter for the day. I was shouting at the TV no more than anyone else at the end of the game.
"Being with Crokes, I wasn't involved for the league and that was simply it. I was just going to try whatever I needed to do to try and get back involved for the championship."
He made a brief appearance against Clare in the Munster semi-final and missed all of the provincial decider against Cork but was back in for the All-Ireland quarter-final against Galway, his first championship start since the 2015 All-Ireland final against Dublin.
Given his experience this year Buckley (below) would give his blessing to any proposal to bring all of the club championships in line with a calendar year.
"If you look at our lads this year, it's been fairly full-on. They got a chance during the summer to maybe take a week or two off, but that was about it.
"If you look at our season this year, you are playing 13 weeks in a row and you have that break over Christmas. Then you are playing two games in three months basically."
Room for improvement from the Galway game is significant, he feels.
"We felt we were in a very good place going into the game, training had gone well, just on the day it wasn't a performance that we were happy with.
"We didn't play with the intensity or put in the performance we were hoping to put in or had trained to put in.
"Galway had three goalscoring chances. In fairness to Brian (Kelly) he made some great saves, but looking back on that it's definitely something we need to tidy up on.
"So looking back on it again, it's hard to pinpoint exactly why, but just knowing that the next day a performance like it won't do against Mayo."
Buckley doesn't envisage any lingering bitterness from their Limerick replay with Mayo in 2014 as having an impact on Sunday.
"I wouldn't say so, it was two teams going at it and just two teams trying to get one over on the other and trying to pip it. I wouldn't say it added any bitterness, it was just that bit of competition. It's a natural thing when you are playing such high stakes."
Buckley feels Mayo will gain extensive benefits from their programme of matches over the last eight weeks.
"You would love more games each year and Mayo definitely have that this year. You have games to analyse and areas to improve on and you can go out the next week and improve on it.
"Their graph is definitely on the way up and they have that backing of match sharpness and fitness."
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