'Our backs stopped Dubs putting us to the sword.'
COMING just two weeks after their All-Ireland club semi-final loss to Slaughtneil, Kieran Donaghy's presence very much in the thick of it in Killarney on Sunday was in some ways, a touch surprising.
Given the identity of the opposition (and his new starring role as the pantomime villain for their supporters), that it would be his game as Kerry captain and throw in the fact that Sunday was Donaghy's 32nd birthday and it all makes a little more sense.
"I'd a great privilege that the Stacks boys through their work all year, they'd given me the opportunity to be captain," he beamed.
"That's something you can't be sitting around feeling sorry for yourself after losing a club semi-final, as disappointing as it was.
"It was important to get back on, I wanted to come back in the Tuesday or the Thursday afterwards but Eamon told me to take a week off and come back in the following Saturday."
But did the visit of the Dubs and the baggage such a fixture brings expedite his return?
"I don't think so.
"The past is the past. We're kind of about the future now," he maintained, though anyone in Fitzgerald Stadium could attest to the fact that both teams were having a little difficulty letting bygones be bygones.
"Where we were at half-time, down 7-6, I said to the boys, 'ye didn't expect anything else, this is going to be a war and a battle'.
"I think that's what I'm most proud of in the team, that we were able to pull through in a battle, a battling game like that."
Naturally, Donaghy and Rory O'Carroll resumed hostilities and plenty of others initiated antagonisms of their own.
But Donaghy's real contribution to a narky contest was the direct hand he had in five Kerry points.
Yet the performances of a raft of Kerry defenders, even in the driving snow, was hugely impressive.
"Jack Sherwood was unbelievable. I'm delighted. I've been asking him to deliver that type of performance for a while," Donaghy agreed.
"He's going to be a player that will be pushing hard come the summer.
"That's what we want to get out of these league games, to find out if fellas are up for the battle.
"I thought Jack was outstanding; Killian Young showed great stuff. Mark (Griffin), Fionn (Fitzgerald) and Pa (Kilkenny) in the full-back line. While we were bad in the first half, I thought the boys kept us in it.
"So when we weren't performing up front in the first half, the backs kept us in the game.
"If we were as poor as we were in the first half, and if the backs were a small bit off it, the Dubs would have put us to the sword."