Paul Geaney’s effusive praise of colleague James O’Donoghue captured the footballing capabilities of Kerry’s match-winning forward perfectly.
“It is the mark of a man that he only came back, he has only a couple of training sessions under his belt, and did what he did. He is a top class forward,” said Geaney.
The sporting public were never in doubt about O’Donoghue’s “top class forward” status, but the All Star footballer yesterday moved himself further up the ladder.
In the absence of Colm Cooper, O’Donoghue, returning from a shoulder injury, willingly assumed a leadership role in front of goal, tapering the fuse on the county’s biggest Munster final win over neighbours Cork in 23 years. His final tally reached double figures – 0-10 – only two of which arrived from the placed ball. A remarkable display.
“He was out in front and was kicking scores. He could have had a goal as well. When any player in your forward division is playing well like that, you feed off it, especially when they are roasting their man. You definitely feed off that,” continued Geaney.”
And so when the man of the match was asked to reflect upon his own performance, a humble and gracious response was offered.
“I didn’t kick a ball for five weeks so I was delighted just to be on,” he said.
“There is nothing worse than preparing for a Munster final when you are not on. I was delighted to be on and kick a few points, over the moon.
“Maybe we did have a lot of space out there, but we have clever players running in all different directions and that created space for me. When you do get space you have to punish the opposition and luckily we did.”
Whatever about his own contribution, was such a complete and impressive team performance envisaged?
“I think we have been training very hard behind closed doors and people don’t see what we are doing. We know what we are capable of. We took a bit of criticism, but still we know what we are capable of. We bottled up all that criticism and then thrived on it.
“We were expecting to win, whether or not we expected the margin to be what it was I am not sure.”
With recent Munster finals fresh in the mind, O’Donoghue said a positive opening to the second period was imperative. And as you would expect, the corner forward was involved in the flow of scores which ended the game as a contest.
“Cork are a very good team especially in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. We knew we were going to be in a real battle for the second-half. We had to come out strong, we did and that game was probably over with 10 or 15 minutes to go which saved us a lot of hassle.
“This win is a statement in the absence of some big players, but there are always new fellas coming on in Kerry. We have lost a couple of players, but all is not over. We have some very good players coming through and they stood up today.”
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