Donaghy focused and back to form

As months go, Kieran Donaghy can think of plenty better than the last two gone.

The sudden death of his father Oliver in March was obviously a low time for him.

His costly mistake in the Division 1 semi-final against Mayo last month was a forgettable episode.

Yet in Na Fianna’s clubhouse yesterday on duty for Ulster Bank, he was his usual gregarious self.

Donned in an Argentina soccer top, the letters M, E, S, S and I on the back have hardly bridged broader shoulders.

He tells of how he lost his pet dog Buddy in Tralee last week who was eventually found after a wide-scale search by friends.

Downstairs, a school uniform-attired Ciaran Kilkenny was taking a few lads in a hurling coaching session.

The Dublin whizz kid, a recent U21 All-Ireland FC winner, is certainly the future, be it here or Australia, but Donaghy is still very much the now.

The commitment he showed in lining out for Kerry against Cork in their league game, just two days after Tyrone native Oliver passed away, was testament to his loyal character. He didn’t have to — but felt it was the right thing to do.

“I had to think twice about it and it was a hard decision. He died on the Friday afternoon and I didn’t know what the story with the funeral was.

“Then they said the funeral wasn’t going to be the Monday so I knew on the Sunday there was a possibility that I was going to be playing.

“Jack (O’Connor) was billing it as a big game for us and I know well he (Oliver) would have wanted me to play anyway.

“As much as it was trying to deal with him dying, after the initial shock of that, you just get back to being a footballer.

“You try to do what you do best and try to help your team win a game. That’s what I tried to do.”

Donaghy did exactly that and got busy living, scoring a point in the win over Cork and playing solidly at wing forward.

However, four weeks later his errant kick-pass across the Kerry goal was intercepted by Alan Dillon, who was brought down by Paul Galvin and Pat Harte converted the penalty which brought Mayo back into a game they eventually won in extra-time.

“I beat myself up about it because I pride myself for being smart and making the right decisions as much as I can,” he admitted. “I made a bad decision. It was a bad kick, but I actually didn’t see Alan Dillon — he was never in my line of sight.

“I saw Paul (Galvin) and I had been shouting at guys to switch it out to Paul before that.

“So I think it was more frustration than anything else. I said ‘if you’re not going to switch it, then I’m going to switch it’.

“It was almost in half-temper because I knew he was over there and he was calling for it when other guys had the ball.”

Afterwards, manager Jack O’Connor refused to lay too much blame on Donaghy but the Austin Stacks man knew he was guilty of a major error.

“I rushed it, number one, it was a bad kick, number two, and I didn’t see Dillon, number three, so it was a comedy of errors that led to Mayo getting back into the game. You beat yourself up about it when you make a mistake, but you have to get on with it.”

Donaghy’s attitude to the new square ball rule has become more relaxed. He feels it will speed up the game and make life easier for umpires.

The 29-year-old is seen as the one man who will gain most from the new approach, but he’s not ruling out more forays at wing-forward, where he has played on occasions in recent times.

“It was great to get out around the middle, get a ball and turn around and there’s no one on you. I haven’t witnessed that in a long, long time.

“At full-forward, you can feel very isolated. When the ball is coming in, and you’re winning it, it’s great. But if the other team is on top, you can feel helpless.”

He’s also enjoyed the last few weeks. As Kerry didn’t get away from a warm weather trip, they upped their training sessions from two to three and four times a week. They’re expected to steamroll relegated Tipperary, which Donaghy admits leaves the Kingdom in an unenviable position.

“It’s a no-win scenario. Tipperary two years ago below in Semple (Stadium) put it up to us until about the 50th or 60th minute until we got two late goals to open it up. We came away going ‘that was okay’. We didn’t play well enough, but they were flying at the time.”

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