KERRY great Kieran Donaghy has questioned the timing of
Donaghy agreed with former Kingdom colleague Tomás Ó Sé that the apparent decision of Keane to dispense with Buckley’s coaching services is a gamble.
Donaghy described it as “risky” and said that if Kerry’s defence is badly exploited in a big Championship game that they lose, then critics will be quick to blame it on Buckley’s exit.
Renowned for his work in improving teams defensively, Buckley was part of Keane’s backroom team for around 18 months before being released last week.
“Fortune favours the brave sometimes,” said Donaghy of boss Keane’s apparent move. “If Kerry do win the All-Ireland, they’ll say it was great and he was right to do what he did and it was a masterstroke. And if Kerry concede a big amount in some game in the summer and end up losing it, it’ll be the first thing that’ll come back at him.
“The timing isn’t great. We’re in the middle of March. Could it have been something that was done over winter? There could have been a more natural separation over winter. Even though Donie is away for a lot of the winter, he’s probably back in a while now.
Maybe the vibes weren’t good or he wasn’t getting enough time or Peter didn’t want to give him the time or whatever it was and they said, ‘Look, the best thing to do here is to walk away’. I feel for Donie because I know how much he loves Kerry.
It’s the second time Buckley has departed a Kerry management setup mid-season following his 2012 exit when Jack O’Connor was manager.
Donaghy said one certainty is that Keane, who guided Kerry to the Allianz League and All-Ireland finals in his first season in charge last year, won’t lose any sleep about the reaction from outside the camp.
“Peter doesn’t care about that, I can tell you that now,” said Donaghy.
“He wouldn’t not make the move because, ‘Jeez, the optics of this will be bad’ or ‘People will use this as a stick to beat me with later in the summer’. He wouldn’t not make the move because of those things. That would never enter his train of thought.
“He’d make the move based on what he thinks is right for his team and his ‘all-in’ kind of mentality. And there could be stuff that we obviously don’t know about. You do look at it from the outside looking in and think it is risky, absolutely it is risky.”
Buckley is notoriously wary of media and keeps a low profile publicly but within the GAA world is renowned as one of the game’s top coaches and deep thinkers.
“I’m sure all he’s thought about for the last year and a half is Kerry and how to improve them and make them better,” said Donaghy. “Any guy that is that valuable, that you then lose....and I say lose but then I don’t think Peter Keane would have made this call unless he wanted to.”
Donaghy noted that former Mayo and Limerick coach Buckley was a county board appointment, installed alongside Keane’s management team, though said no-one is necessarily to blame that things didn’t work out between all of the parties.
“He was a county board [choice],” said Donaghy. “Donie Buckley was out there, and Kerry’s defence in the last few years would have been looked at, and you have this guy out there and it’s a case of ‘Let’s get him’.
“And you’re bringing in a new management, bar Maurice Fitzgerald, into the senior setup so he was another bit of experience.
“Donie Buckley has been there, he’s seen it, he’s been in a number of finals, he knows what it’s all about and is a very good coach. It made perfect sense to bring him in.
“So you can’t blame Tim Murphy and the county board in this either. I don’t think there’s anybody to blame.
“It was a good move by the county board to get him involved and if it worked out, great, and if the relationship was brilliant, that would be great. But obviously there were issues somewhere, or between certain parties and it hasn’t worked out. But Kerry will move on.”
Meanwhile, All-Star Cork attacker Pat Horgan has admitted the idea of playing one or more Championship games behind closed doors is a real turn off.
The GAA schedule has yet to be affected by the coronavirus issue though there are fears the closing stages of the Allianz Leagues may have to be completed in empty stadiums.
Should that situation drag on into the summer, it could even mean Championship matches being played with no crowds.
“I couldn’t see the point of doing it behind closed doors,” said Horgan. “When you can hear the ball hitting off the hurley around the whole stadium, I just don’t see it being too interesting. For players, it wouldn’t be good. I’d prefer not to ever see that, it wouldn’t be great.
“I don’t know, I wouldn’t fancy it anyway. I don’t think any player would. That’s part of the buzz, when you go into a full stadium after training for the last eight or nine months, to get a bit of buzz off the whole day, the atmosphere and the whole lot. Going in there and there is nobody there, it wouldn’t be good.”
Experienced Horgan said that if the early stages of the Championship are affected, he would be open to condensing the schedule and even returning to the old knock-out format.
“If they had to do that, there would be some games then,” he said. “If that’s what they had to do, it wouldn’t be too bad. Even though fellas would like more than one day out in the year, if that’s what they had to do, it wouldn’t be too bad.”