Aidan O'Mahony: Away days tests will bring Kerry players on

Watching Kerry leave Ballybofey empty handed on Sunday afternoon brought Aidan O'Mahony back to his own grisly experience there 10 years ago
Aidan O'Mahony: Away days tests will bring Kerry players on

WINNER: Aidan O'Mahony of Rathmore celebrates after his side's victory in the All-Ireland intermediate championship final. Pic: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Watching Kerry leave Ballybofey empty handed on Sunday afternoon brought Aidan O'Mahony back to his own grisly experience there 10 years ago.

It was a snowy mid-March afternoon and Michael Murphy took the full-back for 1-5, Tomás Ó Sé was sent off and Kerry lost by nine points. Following a fourth consecutive defeat, and with relegation staring them in the face, Éamonn Fitzmaurice stopped the team bus on the way home at a pizza joint for comfort food.

The thing is, Kerry actually won their remaining three games in that 2013 campaign to somehow stay in Division 1. They have double that amount of games left in the current campaign to put things right so O'Mahony gives short shrift to the mention of another relegation scrap, even with three more away dates in Mayo, Tyrone and Galway to come.

"Donegal is a very tough place to come away from with any result," said O'Mahony. "I don't think in my career we came away with too many wins and if we did we always had massive battles up there, no matter what team they put out.

"I think for Kerry it's a learning thing. At the moment, I don't think they'll get relegated. I can see them picking up points and I think those away games, the Mayos and the Tyrones, sure they're the games you want to blood new players. When you're above in Omagh and these places, that's when you'll see what you have and what players are standing up for you."

O'Connor only had five starters from his All-Ireland winning team - Graham O'Sullivan, Jason Foley, Tom O'Sullivan, Tadhg Morley and Jack Barry - lining out on Sunday. It was an entirely different forward six.

Injuries to Paul Geaney, Diarmuid O'Connor and Sean O'Shea, allied to the Cliffords resting up after their winter club commitments, means O'Connor will be short of bodies again for this Sunday's home game against Monaghan.

Five-time All-Ireland winner O'Mahony isn't particularly bothered.

"The way the (Championship) format is this year, you only need to be peaking for the Championship," argued the recent All-Ireland club intermediate medallist with Rathmore. "After Munster, they'll be going into that group format, and Jack would have known that. I think that's where he'll be pointing his team to start peaking. There's no point peaking at this time of the year, and he knew that.

"And there are lads with injuries and lads to come back in. I think he'll probably just be anxious that a few would put their hands up, and I think they will as well.

"Paul Murphy kicked two points, had a great game. Jack will be delighted with that. That's an extra back. Mike Breen is back, Pa Warren played well. Dara Moynihan never played the All-Ireland final last year, he's back. So I think there's plenty of positives.

"A game like that, you can use it to say, 'Look lads, we should have got something out of that, why didn't we?' They'll learn from it."

O'Mahony was speaking ahead of Thursday's first airing of his Laochra Gael episode on TG4.

The documentary covers a difficult 2008 when O'Mahony was caught up in a diving incident against Cork before becoming the first GAA player to fail a drugs test.

He was later cleared as salbutamol levels in his sample were consistent with his use of an inhaler for a serious asthma condition that had left him particularly sick throughout his childhood.

But it all took a toll on O'Mahony's mental health and he eventually booked into treatment centre Aiseiri.

"I probably saw myself as Aidan O'Mahony the footballer the whole time, where I played on the edge and played on the line and I couldn't drop my barrier," he said. "Those years, in 2008 and 2009, I just wasn't in a good headspace mentally outside of the pitch as well. When you don't deal with them, they just snowball up."

O'Mahony has embraced new challenges since retiring from Kerry in 2016; taking part in Dancing with the Stars in 2017 and he recently agreed to manage the Dr Crokes hurlers.

"My wife would vouch for this - I'm constantly studying the game. I have Evan Talty from Clare who is involved with me. He's brilliant on the coaching side of it."

*Laochra Gael - Aidan O'Mahony will air on TG4 at 9.30pm on Thursday evening.

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