O’Donoghue ‘playing last game every game’

Kerry forward James O'Donoghue and Donegal ace Ryan McHugh in relaxed mood ahead of their departure to Boston from Dublin Airport yesterday. Picture: Pat Murphy/Sportsfile

Footballer of the Year James O’Donoghue has revealed his shoulder injury was so severe, it was close to finishing his season in every one of the four Championship games he played for Kerry this summer.

Speaking before heading off to Boston with the Opel GAA-GPA All Stars yesterday, the 24-year-old admitted he damaged it in every match and also admitted his training was seriously curtailed because of the problem.

He incurred an AC (acromioclavicular joint) injury two weeks prior to the Munster semi-final against Clare. Although he missed that game, he started the remainder of Kerry’s matches. Despite dislocating it in the All-Ireland quarter-final against Galway, the Kerry medical team managed to push it back in.

“I knew that I was lucky because if I had dislocated it properly again I was out, like. It sounds completely clichéd and terrible but I was actually playing my last game every game, that kind of way. That’s honestly how I felt.

“Deep down, it probably did (drive O’Donoghue) because it could be your last ball, like. ”

On many occasions, O’Donoghue was convincing himself he was okay to play when he might not have been. “I suppose if you tell yourself you’re 100%, you probably are! I didn’t train at all for a lot of the stages. A good bit of rest — I was nice and fresh!”

O’Donoghue anticipates he’ll be back in action in the latter half of May or early June. He has no concerns about not making the start of the Championship, a Munster semi-final against Waterford or Tipperary, having had the operation in Santry’s Sports Clinic earlier this month.

“They say six months, and I was up with the surgeon last Monday — he said maybe we’ll take a few weeks off that. There’s no pain or anything. I’ll be back in plenty of time for championship anyway.”

He joked about the regularity of his shoulder issues. “I have a gangly walk and my arms are all over the place, I’d say it just unsettles everything. So, since I was young, I kept dislocating my left one. But that’s sorted now.”

Having done his left shoulder on two occasions, O’Donoghue doesn’t have the same hang-ups now. “I was lucky because of my other hand; that I just knew the gig with it. That mental side of it wasn’t really too big for me, whereas if it was two years previous with this (left) arm … I was useless! I couldn’t function at all. So maybe that bit of experience was good.”

O’Donoghue turned down an invite to an International Rules trial while he had planned to have the operation shortly after the county final in case Legion reached it.

“I had the operation booked in for the week after the final of the county championship, so I was very optimistic! And I said if we got to the final, that I’d miss the Munster club, even if we won. We weren’t going to win anyway, we were a bit short this year. Then we had a few more club games that I missed. It worked out handy enough.”

Gooch and Walsh will ‘freshen’ Kingdom squad

By John Fogarty

It’s not that James O’Donoghue wants to put too much pressure on Tommy Walsh — but he’s expecting fireworks when the 2008 young footballer of the year returns to Kerry colours in the new year.

With Walsh and Colm Cooper back from injury, Kerry shouldn’t miss shoulder injury victim O’Donoghue too much, even though the Legion man guided the Kingdom clear of the League relegation trap-doors this year.

“In my head, I think he’s going to be awesome but I don’t want to put any expectation on him. Just leave him settle in slowly and surely. I don’t know where they’ll play but they’ll be like two new signings who will freshen up the group. We’re lucky, really.”

There is plenty of misfortune, though, in losing a player of Declan O’Sullivan’s ilk at the relatively tender age of 30. The Dromid Pearses man mightn’t have been there for this year’s league campaign but when he came back into the fold for the Championship, O’Donoghue was astounded with his contribution.

“You would see Declan at every training session he has to really strap up his knees, he was probably in the physio room for half an hour before every session getting ready. He has a young family and things as well.

“But he is such a leader and that is what is going to be missed for Kerry. He has an aura about him. Everybody has this huge respect for him and he will be sorely missed, that’s for sure.”

But for O’Sullivan especially in the absence of Cooper, O’Donoghue is adamant Kerry wouldn’t have gone all the way. “No, definitely not. We had a shockingly young panel. Everybody was from my minor and U21 team I think and we had to add in that bit of experience with the older lads who have been there and done it all, seen it all.

“They were the ones driving it as well, usually you think the younger lads would be driving the group but the older lads were so hungry and mentally tuned in. They wanted one last crack.”

With more hype to follow him next year, O’Donoghue isn’t overly upset about the shoulder injury that will force him onto the sidelines for the Division 1 campaign.

“The league can be a hard slog because you’re going up to Donegal, Tyrone and Mayo and you can play poorly and next thing your confidence could be shot a bit. You could lose a game and you’re not going great.

“That was this year and it probably had a negative effect on us. I think I’ll miss all that, I’ll miss the hard slog and get the body right. Hopefully I’ll be right come Championship and that will take pressure off.”


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