Kieran Donaghy: Everyone has to fight for a jersey

“The achievements of an organisation are the results of the combined effort of each individual... Individual commitment to a group effort— that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilisation work.” —Vince Lombardi

The Kerry dressing-room is sacrosanct, although, inside, the walls carry messages, inspirational quotes, acronyms.

Perhaps without knowing it, Kerry manager, Eamonn Fitzmaurice, has taken on board the teachings of Lombardi, advocating the importance of “squad” in the last few seasons.

That dynamic doesn’t need to be posted on the wall alongside the other messages — the players buy into Fitzmaurice’s philosophy, and the players don’t sulk.

Ultimately they know Fitzmaurice doesn’t need any negative energy pervading his camp.

Kieran Donaghy is captain, a totem figure, a big personality inside the Kerry camp, but he is no longer guaranteed a starting slot.

Being replaced at half-time in the All-Ireland semi-final against Tyrone was new territory for Donaghy, but the skipper appreciates the Fitzmaurice way.

Like every other team member, he has had to suck it up, but as a seasoned basketball player, too, he understands the mentality of squad inter-change.

“It was tough (coming off against Tyrone). I don’t know if it’s from the basketball but I’ve always seen it as a thing where coming on and coming off is obviously something to be disappointed in yourself in but my main thing was Kerry were going to win.

“If I had been taken off and Kerry lost I would have been unbelievably gutted. I was taken off, I was gutted for a minute and a half and then I realigned my thoughts into talking to the boys and making sure the spirits were good in the second half.”

Paul Geaney replaced Donaghy, the Dingle native arguably turning the match with a belter of a performance. Unlike last year when Donaghy was the semi-final hero, this season — and for this final — it’s been a different run-in.

“I’m in a different place compared to last year going into the final having played relatively well in the two Mayo games.

“It’s a different build-up (this time) because for me now there is added pressure to try and cement my place, try to hold onto that jersey. That’s probably why it is different; it’s going to be a different week.

“I’ve always prided myself in how I have done in pressure situations, hopefully that leads to me having a very good build up, working hard on my own performance to help the team whatever happens.

“It’s something we’ve talked about all year, that fellas aren’t comfortable going into training sessions or games thinking they are going to automatically going to start. Everyone has to fight for that jersey.”

Just as the public aren’t privy to the privacy of the Kerry dressing-room, their behind-closed-doors training sessions are taking on a mythical status — a bit like the Kilkenny hurlers in Nowlan Park.

“There has been an edge. The battling for positions and starting places has been huge all summer. It’s probably the main reason why we’re back in this position.

“Often when you win an All-Ireland it’s nearly the same bunch that go at it again for the following year. Then sometimes staleness or lack of hunger can cost you.

“The level of competition this year, the bite to training and the pursuit of the jersey and a place on the match day squad is huge. That’s what has motivated every fella all year.”

Fitzmaurice has created that environment. Is he a new type of manager in Donaghy’s eyes?

“He is. He’s been a big advocate of it from the start. I remember him saying that we’ll need a panel and we’ll need everything to be competitive and he really has it this year with the addition of Tommy (Walsh) from Australia and the ‘Gooch’ (Colm Cooper) back from injury have really added to that along with Darran O’Sullivan after his injuries. But the games are very competitive and that’s what we want.”

He’s watched the Championship unfold like a box-set drama this summer: The whole diving incident surrounding Tiernan McCann and the physicality of the first Dublin-Mayo match the big talking points of the narrative.

What’s his take on diving in Gaelic football? “I actually got booked for diving this year, and I was disgusted with the call, in the Championship game against Tipperary. I couldn’t believe it. Look, I wouldn’t (dive). I didn’t dive that day and I wouldn’t in a game.

“It’s something that has been highlighted very well the last few weeks and I think looking at the last semi-final there was a great degree of honour in it and I thought players handled themselves very well. Referees have a tough enough job and it’s up to us to try and concentrate on football.”

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