Wednesday 20 November 2019

Swift return for Donaghy driven by his need to lead from front

Kieran Donaghy, Kerry, in action against Eoghan O'Gara, Dublin
Kieran Donaghy, Kerry, in action against Eoghan O'Gara, Dublin
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Kieran Donaghy was entitled to take a break to lick his wounds after Austin Stacks' club defeat to Slaughtneil two weeks earlier.

But the former Footballer of the Year couldn't countenance the prospect of sitting out a visit to Killarney by Dublin for what was his first game as Kerry captain.

Instead he dusted himself down after that disappointment and returned to training six days later in preparation for a league meeting of the last two All-Ireland champions that produced spark, spite, needle and huge competitiveness on a difficult day for football.

As Donaghy saw it, sitting around wasn't going to do anything for him, not when he had spent so much of the previous two seasons on the periphery with injuries and consequently loss of form.

"I was out long enough with a niggly injury. For me to be playing (again) is great. Without a doubt, this was an ideal fixture," he said on a day when he also celebrated his 32nd birthday.

"It was one that really whets the appetite for any Kerry players. Certainly to get the chance to lead the boys out into battle was something, personally, I was looking forward to," he added.

"I'll be honest, it was very disappointing to lose that game two weeks ago," he said of the club semi-final defeat to the Derry and Ulster champions.

"We should have won it. To lose it was sickening. But I had a great privilege that the Stacks boys, through their hard work all year, had got me the captaincy and that's something. You can't be sitting around feeling sorry for yourself after losing a club semi-final, disappointing as it was.

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"It was important to get back on. I wanted to come back in the Tuesday or the Thursday afterwards but Eamonn (Fitzmaurice) wanted me to take a week off and come back in the following Saturday. It's unbelievable to be given this opportunity and I want to play as many games as I can.

"I missed a lot of two years ago with injury and a lot of last year with injury so I wanted to get back out there."

Kerry did an impressive number on Dublin's kick-outs with four scores coming directly from the pressure applied and two goal chances in the opening half were also spurned.

Donaghy acknowledged that alertness was a key factor in cracking one of Dublin's most successful strategies.

Gamble

"It's a hard one because, they're so good at it. We tried to gamble here and there and be as disruptive as we could.

"Our two boys (David Moran and Anthony Maher) are very good out in the middle of the field and we want it going out to them. It's our job, as forwards, to be alert.

"I think it's to be alert after the ball goes over the bar or wide. If you're not tuned in, they'll have the ball down and be gone.

"You want to get it out and up for grabs and let fellas compete for it out the middle of the field. I felt we were only okay at it in the first half but we tightened up well in the second half."

Donaghy had words of praise for referee Eddie Kinsella who incurred the wrath of the travelling Dublin support and thinly-veiled criticism from Jim Gavin over some of the decisions made and cards issued.

Dublin lost Mick Fitzsimons to a late red card while Denis Bastick and Philly McMahon were black-carded.

"I thought Eddie and his officiating team did a great job because Kerry and Dublin is notoriously feisty. There were a few skirmishes here and there but I thought he handled it very well. When the cards needed to be given out, he gave them out," said Donaghy.

Of the four black cards, Dublin midfielder Bastick looks like he has most cause for redress following his tangle with Donaghy in which he subsequently brought the Kerry captain to the ground. Dublin could strongly argue that the action wasn't deliberate and was precipitated by Donaghy backing into and grabbing Bastick in the first place.

Meanwhile, Fitzmaurice has no plans to re-introduce Colm Cooper in either of the forthcoming league games against Cork or Donegal.

Cooper warmed up with the Kerry squad once again but was not part of the 26-man panel named in the match-day programme. Fitzmaurice was reluctant to be drawn on when he might re-appear but the last game away to Tyrone is the competitive comeback date for the Dr Crokes man.

"Earlier on we were hoping mid-March, we were looking at this run of games. He's just not ready yet and I'm reluctant to put a date on it," said Fitzmaurice.

"When he's ready, he's ready. We'll give him as much action as we can. Will he be ready at the end of March? I'm not sure. But he's chomping at the bit."

Cooper is over a year out of action with a cruciate ligament tear he sustained on club duty.

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