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Friday 9 December 2016

Kerry star James O'Donoghue: 'We knew we could win'

O'Donoghue looking forward to The Gooch 'firing and inspiring Kerry' again

James O'Donoghue, Kerry, with the Sam Maguire Cup at the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Series 2015 launch. Gap of Dunloe, Killarney
James O'Donoghue, Kerry, with the Sam Maguire Cup at the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Series 2015 launch. Gap of Dunloe, Killarney

NAÏVE (embarrassing?) though it is in recollection, but to believe public expectation at one stage last year was to worry gravely for Kerry's ability to put out a half decent team.

By September, they had the senior and minor All-Irelands secured and we swore never - ever - to be fooled again.

"We knew we had the capability to win the All-Ireland and yet no one else gave us a sniff," James O'Donoghue recalls, somewhat gleefully.

"I suppose going in under the radar can be helpful but at the end of the day I think I'd rather be up there ranked as one of the top teams and then have the pressure to have to go out and perform and prove everyone right.

"The public believe what they read in the paper. They actually thought that we weren't going to win anything.

phenomenal

"On the back of that, a special bond arose between the team and the supporters. It was strange kind of atmosphere around the place and after winning then, it was phenomenal.

"I'm hoping that bond between supporters and players keeps going for this year because that was a huge advantage for last year."

"It's great for the group when you come through tough battles. Coming through a battle in horrendous conditions after nearly being knocked out the week before.

"Good for the heads and everything and we're thinking maybe luck is on our side this year."

On an unrelated note, O'Donoghue has already been involved in a mild controversy this season, though not one of his own making.

Martin Carney was booed, jeered and vilified by the Tweeting classes for his awarding of the official RTé Man of the Match to O'Donoghue in the Munster SFC replay - toil and tussle though the Legion man surely did in a wholly less prolific role, one he has been forced to adapt to, than that in which he made his reputation.

"If you're not involved in the game and you're not touching the ball, you're getting cold, you're getting a bit cranky with everything else that's going on," the reigning Footballer of the Year admits.

"Things might not be going your way and suddenly you're absolutely useless. It's a lot in the head as well.

"You just have to keep going, keep touching the ball, even if you're doing nothing, making a few tackles, that's what gets you involved in championship games, it's not just about being on the end of a slip pass, tapping it over the bar and taking all the glory."

Commanding though they were in Killarney in the replay, you still get the feeling we haven't seen much of Kerry this year and that suspicion is fuelled mostly by their bench.

"If a fella is hitting form then come the end of the championship, he's going to be on and he's going to have a huge say on it. Maybe a fella who is not on at the moment might pick up some form and come August, he may be the difference between you winning or losing a game."

Such as?

"The Gooch is The Gooch," O'Donoghue adds.

"You just look forward to getting on the field with him.

"I am sure the Gooch's form will hit the sky in the summer. That is what he has been gearing himself for.

"Come Croke Park, where he loves, he is going to back firing and inspiring Kerry."

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