The negativity that cloaked Kerry prior to the Munster final made James O’Donoghue question his claim to wear the county jersey, he admits.
O’Donoghue was taken aback by the sense of despondency among supporters prior to beating Cork by double scores. Some of it motivated him as did Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s own brand of stimulus.
“It’s tough being down in Kerry sometimes with that stuff because Kerry people are so forthcoming with their opinions. You ask if they’re going to the game and they’ll say, ‘Nah sure why would I go down to see them get bate?’
“That does stir something inside you. It’s rare it happens in Kerry but when it does, of course you get that bit of a kick up the backside. You’re kind of questioning are you a true Kerry player? Do you deserve to be wearing that shirt? Eamonn had asked us questions like that: do you really want to win an All-Ireland? It’s up to us now to go on.”
But what a difference one game makes: O’Donoghue, man of the match in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, walks around his native Killarney now and notices frowns have been turned upside down.
“I think the big thing for us is that if there’s anything, they will latch on to it. The whole county is kind of up again after the Cork win and everyone’s really getting behind the team again, which is really important, especially when the age profile is so low. Sometimes you just need that bit of momentum and encouragement from around the place.”
O’Donoghue picked up an All Star last year but is in the unenviable position of being one of two Kerry players who have claimed the award without an All-Ireland medal, Connie Murphy (1989) being the other.
He regales a story about being reminded of that fact. “You’re not a real Kerry player until you’ve performed in Croke Park, in the white heat of championship, in an All-Ireland final, and come home with the trophy.
“Even last year, I got an All Star, and realistically that means nothing, unless you have an All-Ireland title. I was actually at a quiz a couple of nights later, and the first question asked was to name the two Kerry players who have won an All Star, and no All-Ireland. No one cares how many All Stars you’ve won. It’s All-Irelands you’re tested on.”
He admits it wasn’t until Paul Galvin told him that he believed he was good enough to play for Kerry that he believed he could make it.
Galvin, who retired earlier this season and taught the Legion man for a while in St Brendan’s College, Killarney, instilled in him a confidence he didn’t have before.
“When I was younger I never even thought I would play for Kerry. I was a huge fan. But it wasn’t until Paul Galvin trained us inside in the school, and he brought that sense of possibility to the table, that some of us were good enough. So I always looked up to Paul Galvin. He was always good for a word.”
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