Kieran Donaghy has revealed how he felt Kerry failed to match Mayo’s aggression and mastery of the dark arts, writes Stephen Barry.
Mayo deployed their trademark surprise tactical manoeuvre in the All-Ireland semi-final draw and replay by placing All-Star forward Aidan O’Shea at full-back on Donaghy.
The Kerryman set up a crucial goal and, rather than attack with the high ball, took O’Shea on a tour of Croke Park the first day out. However, he cut a frustrated figure when getting sent-off late on the second day.
“I know there was a lot of talk about how our playing of a sweeper made my job much tougher, as Mayo could do the same in front of me (in the replay), but that’s too simplistic,” he wrote on the AIB GAA blog.
“Mayo are the masters of the dark arts and in each game they found ways of getting a man in front of me at full-forward. Whether that was slowing down a free being taken or knocking the ball away so they had time to get back — having the free moved up made no odds to them — it allowed someone to get back in to fill the gaps. There must’ve been at least ten instances of that the first day.
“They did a lot right in terms of taking me towards the sideline for kickouts, asking me to track back, and their decision to switch the man on me. It wasn’t always O’Shea on me, it was changing every few minutes – Donie Vaughan, Seamie O’Shea, even Brendan Harrison for a short while – and it can be hard to get into the game and get a feel for how to play your man when that’s happening.
“In my book, I had a chapter on how you can't be the reactor in sport, you must be the aggressor. Aidan was the aggressor, and fair play to him, Mayo will need that in spades Sunday. I reacted to the dark arts and ended up getting sent off and losing the game.”
He also described the verbals that took place between the star duo.
“Myself and Aidan O’Shea may have been seen smiling away to one another, but the reality was far from that. We were in each other’s faces throughout both games, real physical stuff and when one of us won a ball, we weren’t long in letting the other man know about it.
“Very little of what was said could be printed here but, if you’d recorded it, I’d say RTE or even Sky would pay a nice few bob to get a half-hour long show out of it.”
Donaghy is playing away with his club Austin Stack’s and returning to the basketball court with Tralee Warriors, so a decision on his inter-county future can wait for another day.
“Other than that (red card), it was as enjoyable a season as I’ve had in over 13 years playing with Kerry.
“I haven’t had a chance to think about playing for Kerry next season because I haven’t had a moment’s rest since the inter-county season ended for us. It’s been right back at it with Stacks and basketball, not to mention that baby number two is on the way. So I’ll come to that decision another day.”
And while Donaghy believes “the Dubs can be beaten”, he thinks the champions’ scoring substitutes can inch them past Mayo in Sunday’s final.