Sunday 20 January 2019

Donaghy and Tralee aiming for glory as Super League heats up after cold snap


Kieran Donaghy. Photo: Sportsfile
Kieran Donaghy. Photo: Sportsfile
Barry Lennon

Barry Lennon

The recent cold snap has failed to take the heat off Kieran Donaghy's Tralee Warriors as they bid for the most hotly-contested Super League title since the format began.

After Storm Emma blew last weekend's fixtures off course, the Kerry side were unusually forced to play Templeogue midweek ahead of tonight's final game.

The Kingdom full-forward suffered defeat on that crucial Thursday trip to the Dublin club - the team of fellow footballer Kevin McManamon.

"I think I'm long enough now in the tooth to know how to deal with it. Sport can be cruel," Donaghy said before Thursday's 580km round trip.

"With us driving to 11 or 13 games a season, the club couldn't afford a bus. But four or five of the older fellas, myself included, would drive.

"I'm used to doing it (driving and playing) from Tralee Tigers back in the day. That's the beauty of being from Kerry, you're putting in the extra mileage.

"It can be a bit tricky but you can get that time to settle your mind.

"You've time to do bits of physio and limber up. We'd normally do that round trip on a Saturday which makes being back from Dublin at 3.0am difficult."

The 35-year-old said with the club enjoying Champions Trophy success last year, and regularly drawing more than a thousand fans to home games, work places have been supportive.

"There's no problem for the boys getting off work because employers recognise what this team is doing for this town," he said.

"They, themselves, will be looking forward to the game.

"Winning the Champions Trophy was a huge thing for the town.

"It shows the sport is going the right way. When you have a thousand people cheering you on, it's easier to find that little bit extra."

Although Thursday's loss dented their title ambitions, Donaghy expects tonight's final home game against Belfast Star to be a sell-out at the Sports Complex.

Victory is a must for Tralee Warriors who can only secure the top honours through a play-off - held in the event of a tie at the top of the table.

They sit three points off the league leaders UCD Marian and must rely on defeats for the Dubliners and Pyrobel Killester to secure a play-off.

Donaghy praised the team's sharp-shooting American Trae Pemberton in promoting the game locally.

"He's really involved himself in the community here in Tralee. He's coaching the youngsters here. He's been brilliant. They all love him," Donaghy said.

"The boys go for coffees with him and make sure he can catch the college basketball and the NBA on TV."

Warriors, coached by American Mark Bernsen, have also drawn on the expertise of former Real Madrid underage prospect Dusan Bagdonovic.

"I heard about him from a friend of my wife. This fella was coming over from Serbia and wanted to play.

"And I was busy, I thought 'I don't have the time for that'. But then I saw he was seven-foot and said 'you're in,'" Donaghy recalled.

The Austin Stacks clubman intends to return to action for Kerry during the championship after the basketball season finishes.

"I've already made that clear in another interview earlier this year, I'm coming back," he confirmed before insisting his focus is on basketball for now and that's all he wants to talk about.

As for now Donaghy's sole goal is Super League glory.

Irish Independent

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