Kerry skipper Kieran Donaghy under pressure for final starting place
Kerry captain admits his starting spot is under threat as he banishes unwanted premonitions of lifting Sam Maguire Cup
KIERAN Donaghy is the Kerryman whose starting spot is in most in jeopardy for Sunday and he knows it.
An ineffective first half performance against Tyrone in the semi-final preceded an almost inevitable substitution at the break, despite kicking his one and only point just prior to it.
To heighten to tenuousness of his claims on that starting jersey, Donaghy's replacement, Paul Geaney, had an inspired second half and you could argue quite convincingly that he was the most influential of the Kerry forwards in the winning of that game.
Toss into the mix the fact that Donaghy is this year's Kerry captain and that éamonn Fitzmaurice has never been queasy about dropping big names with multiple All-Ireland medals and the stakes couldn't be much higher for Donaghy in the expected team announcement tomorrow night .
Typically, he is not shy to acknowledge that there exists "added pressure to try and cement my place, (to) try to hold on to that jersey," and admits to being "gutted for a minute" after being informed of his removal from the action at half-time in the Tyrone win.
It is not, however, a situation to which he is unaccustomed. Last year, Donaghy didn't get so much as a minute in the All-Ireland quarter-final against Galway, then rescued a semi-final replay against Mayo, then started the final and scored that vital, opportunistic goal when presented with the present of a lifetime by Paul Durcan.
Now, it's hard to escape the feeling his stock is heading in the other direction at just the wrong time. "I've always prided myself in how I have done in pressure situations," he says.
"I hope that leads to me having a very good build-up … and working hard on my own performance to help the team whatever happens.
"It's not any different to any other year," he says of the captaincy, "but there is still that added bit of pressure to deliver, which is a good thing.
"It's gone very quick. It's gone quicker than any other year. I don't know if that's a good or a bad thing."
He more readily compares his situation to the one he faced prior to the 2011 All-Ireland final when his place was under threat but Jack O'Connor chose to keep the faith.
"Similar enough I was under pressure that time too and that's good fella. It sharpens the focus, sharpens the mind." That match was, famously, representative of perhaps the best point Donaghy has ever scored and one of his most galling defeats, though not the worst, he insists.
"My point was quickly forgotten about when your man nailed the winner from his free," he recalls, but admits that he "probably haven't scored a better point," than the 70th minute equaliser from under the Cusack Stand.
"It was just what I felt was needed at the time," Donaghy reasons.
"I don't shoot that much, I don't shoot unless I think it have basically a 95 per cent chance of scoring.
"I'd prefer to give it to the sharpshooters around me but that day I just felt it was on and I've a good kick from that area.
"My clubman Daniel Bohan gave me a pass that was on the money, as they say, it hit me in the chest.
"I was cramping up as I was kicking it because I was after chasing back for Bernard Brogan's point that put them that point ahead.
"Just as I was kicking it I could feel the cramp coming into my calf so it was a good point but unfortunately it wasn't enough."
It ranks somewhere behind 1982 and the Seamus Darby final in the pantheon of Kerry All-Ireland disappointments but Donaghy isn't inclined to overplay it either.
"No it wasn't my most disappointing," he says.
"But I think the manner of what ... people in Dublin and how long they'd been waiting for one and the way they went and won it, it was storybook stuff with the free at the end. It was certainly.
"Don't get me wrong, when I say it wasn't my most disappointing, that's because I've had a few.
"It was a tough one to take because we were in pole position but you've got to give them credit, they managed a way to fight back into the game and we payed the ultimate price by losing out on an All-Ireland medal and it was a tough few days after that."
How much does that weight ahead of Sunday?
"It doesn't, it doesn't really because this is a new team again from what we had in 2013 and 2011 with new players and Dublin are different as well," he insists. "It's another chapter along the way and, really, the only one that we can write and the only one that we can control is the one that's on (this Sunday).
"It wouldn't be going on in any fella's head as the game is going on what happened four or five years ago, there's an awful lot gone under the bridge since then.
"It'll be about trying to make sure that we can get out the right side of this one."
Donaghy wouldn't, of course, be human if, at some point since Austin Stacks' Kerry SFC final win late last year, imagine himself climbing the steps of the Hogan Stand, followed by his victorious team-mates and places both hands on the big piece of silverware they value so much in Kerry.
"You banish them ... banish them," he says of those premonitions, though he sits just one win away from realising them.
"It's about trying to perform and trying to make sure that Kerry win because everything else will take care of itself after that," Donaghy shrugs.
"Look, if that happens, it happens and if it doesn't, it doesn't.
"For this Kerry team to try and win the All-Ireland would be huge and if we do win, all that will come," he concludes. "It's something I definitely won't be thinking about."
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