Donaghy’s glowing tribute to the Nire

Kieran Donaghy won’t forget The Nire anytime soon, writes Michael Moynihan.

Donaghy’s glowing tribute to the Nire

The Austin Stacks talisman paid the Waterford champions a glowing tribute after they’d taken the Kerry kingpins to the brink of a huge shock in the Munster Club football final.

“There’s pressure, massive pressure, because we’re a Kerry team,” said Donaghy.

“Kerry people can be confident, even your own crowd who wouldn’t really know the game would say ‘ye’ll beat them fellas from Waterford alright’.

“But we were watching videos of them and we knew how good they were – Conor Gleeson is going to be a sensational player, he ran us ragged in the first 15 or 20 minutes.

“Fergal McNamara was struggling, but once he got to grips with him he locked him down in the second-half almost completely. That’s character – you’re beaten for the first 20 minutes but then you back yourself to come out and win the battle, and I think he won the battle overall, which was huge for us.

“We knew we had to lock Gleeson and Lawlor down, they’re two big players for them, and Shane O’Callaghan’s performance with O’Gorman on him – who is a serious player – that was a huge performance. He hauled us into the game when we were struggling, winning balls against the head and doing damage.”

The big full-forward identified other heroes. Other turning points.

“William Kirby coming on in the second-half, he was a magnet for the ball, a magnet for turnovers – inspirational turnovers – and John Dennis came on to torpedo someone in the middle of the field and won the ball.

“Those kinds of things lift a team. You can have game plans and set your stall out, but suddenly you’re six points and a man down, and the tactic book goes out the window. It comes down to the characters on a team, and whether a team has the character and the balls to go for it. We were facing an uphill battle, a kind we mightn’t have faced before, and we had to dig deep.

“But the crowd and a few inspirational players dug us out of that hole. This is an amazing win for us, it’s nearly 40 years since the club won a Munster title, and it’s great to be part of this team.”

Donaghy acknowledges the need for the club – for the team — to make hay, based on the variety of player experiences.

“You don’t know when these chances come along in your lifetime – someone like Greg Horan, who was unbelievable, is only 19. All he’s known in his Stacks career is county finals, Munster finals; William Kirby is 39, and he’s been waiting for this. You don’t know where this thing is going to take you. As the lads say, anything is possible. Why not? We’ll be underdogs the next day, we know that, we’re not littered with five or six county stars but what we have is great spirit and great character. I don’t think we’re ever beaten and we’ll dig in no matter what happens. All we can do now is to look forward to February, I’m looking forward to a few weeks off.”

Donaghy himself could have been living it up on an All Star trip in Boston (“They’re getting a great spin out of me, giving me All Stars and I’m saving them money by not going on the trips,”) but it’s obvious he wouldn’t swap the last few months for a weekend in New England.

“I do appreciate things because when I was 18, 19, I wasn’t an underage sensation who was always going to go on and play (senior), I kind of wangled my way onto the Kerry panel and team. I was suddenly in there.

“I’ve always been hyper-critical and down on myself when I don’t play well, so I try to take it in when we win. Sport is funny, it can be unbelievable and it can be cruel, I’ve had a lot of cruel days and unbelievable days, but I’ve been very lucky in my career to have more good days than bad.

“They always say the bad ones stick with you more than the happy times, but this is one you can really enjoy.”

His brother, who’s coming home from a five and a half year stint in Australia, made next year’s Kerry captain promise a win so he could attend the All-Ireland semi-final.

“My mamma told me there’d be days like this and it’s unbelievable.

“I thought I’d seen the last of Páirc Uí Chaoimh after the Munster final, but to be here for the last game in this old warhorse of a stadium, with the smallest dressing-rooms in the world . . .

“I said to our physio, Paudie McQuinn, in the warm-up, it was nice to see Austin Stacks up there on the scoreboard in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. It’s huge for the club and it’ll make the winter short for Stacks’ people.”

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