Tomás Ó Sé says the catalogue of injuries endured by James O’Donoghue is frustrating for not just the player himself but all “Kerry fellas, to know his talent”.
The Kerry pair were colleagues in 2013, the year O’Donoghue won his first All-Star and the year Ó Sé called it a day after a remarkable career.
O’Donoghue was Footballer of the Year in 2014 but since then has consistently battled injuries, the Legion man’s experience against Clare in the Munster semi-final summing things up neatly.
He was on fire initially that day, dovetailing with David Clifford and Paul Geaney and scoring 1-1 before leaving the field with a hamstring injury.
He has failed to recover from the injury and misses out on the squad for tomorrow night’s final.
“I wouldn’t be mentioning James O’Donoghue in any conversation about Kerry because the guy can’t put two games back-to-back since 2014,” said O Se. “And they’re saying, ‘Oh but...’ The reality is that everyone who talks about James O’Donoghue now is talking retrospectively, in terms of 2014, and that’s not where he’s at.
He was buzzing in Clare, but the poor fella, he’s ravaged with injuries. Like, I saw him in Killarney one day and he was running on and he injured himself, he pulled his calf running on as a sub.
“If I was ever injured, I’d get myself right no matter what, I never missed a game through injury. Some people just happen to be... I don’t know, is it their body composition or what, but they seem to get injured an awful lot and do they play with that fear afterwards? I don’t know.
“It must be frustrating for himself but it’s frustrating for Kerry fellas as well like, to know his talent.”
Talking about O’Donoghue and injury-prone players brings Ó Sé back to a training session early in his Kerry career when Páidí, his at times cantankerous uncle, was in charge.
“Páidí was there at training and there were two physios inside and there’d be a queue for the physios every night, it was ‘Oh, I have knocks here, I have knocks there’. Páidí was getting sick of it, so he says, ‘Whoever is not out at 7 o’clock, do not come out onto the pitch. F*** off home if you’re not fit’, basically.
The next night there were 32 players out at 10 to seven! So is it a thing in your head? I don’t know. I’m not saying they’re faking injuries or anything like that. They’re injured. But some guys are prone to injuries and I think that’s definitely the case with James.
“To be fair to him, any time he does get back, like, he was injured towards the end of the league and when he was back, after probably three weeks of training, he was at that level against Clare. If he just got a break I’ve no doubt he would reach the heights again. It’s just about getting a sustained period of time playing without getting injured.”
Ultimately, there are too many ifs and buts for Ó Sé’s liking, not just over O’Donoghue but over the Kerry team generally, to tip them for the All-Ireland. Tomorrow’s Munster final, he feels, they will definitely win and he believes it’s vital, to ensure they’re playing at home first in the Super 8 game as provincial winners and to have an opportunity to gather momentum.
“My opinion on that is that any provincial winner should actually have two games at home and then play at a neutral ground,” he said. “If you’re coming from the back door, you have to play away (in the Super 8). I think the GAA are learning as they go along but that’s the way I’d be thinking.
I think the real benefit of winning your provincial championship should be two games at home and one game at a neutral venue. Take it all out of Croke Park and go back in then for the semis.
As for Cork, Ó Sé reckons they’ve got their act together after a terrible start to the National League when he felt they looked ‘clueless’ with a defensive strategy.
“Then they changed it up,” he said. “I’m not sure why they changed it up, did management just say, ‘We’re going away from it, we’re going back to the old system’. Apparently, they were flying in challenge games, beat Dublin, Donegal, Galway, lost to Carlow strangely. Then they rattled Limerick in the championship. I can’t predict what Cork are going to do Saturday but I’ve said it for a long, long time, they’re better than what they’ve been producing.”