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Dubs in front even before Donie blow

Buckley exit a loss to Kerry, but five-in-a-row aces won't be bothered either way - Donaghy

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Donie Buckley with Kerry manager Peter Keane. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Donie Buckley with Kerry manager Peter Keane. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Donie Buckley with Kerry manager Peter Keane. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

As an ex-Kerry footballer who has seen Donie Buckley's coaching acumen up close and personal, Kieran Donaghy has no doubt he's a loss to the Kingdom.

But is it a game-changer? A departure that could tilt the balance in favour of Dublin if it boils down to another Sam Maguire shootout between the pair?

Now that's another question entirely. And it may explain why Donaghy takes a long pause before reminding us all who was firmly in pole position even before last weekend's announcement that Buckley - so pivotal to several Mayo attempts to dethrone Dublin in the last decade - was no longer part of Peter Keane's management team.

"I don't think Dublin are too worried any way, to be quite honest with you!" says the 2006 Footballer of the Year. "I honestly don't think that this would be even mentioned in their set-up. Even talked about within the players.

"I presume their confidence levels are at a place now where [they would say] 'Let them bring in whoever they want or get rid of whoever they want, we're still the best team'. That's where they have to be in their mindset."

Still, Dublin's pre-eminence hasn't quelled the debate - especially in Kerry - about the departure of Buckley and the effect it might have on their prospects.

Role

"How big of a loss is it?" Donaghy ponders. "It depends on how big of a role he had in the set-up. I would question how big his role was, possibly.

"I think he's a loss because he's a professional coach almost. He's retired, all he thinks about is coaching, all he thinks about is the team he's involved with. I'm sure all he's thought about for the last year-and-a-half is Kerry and how to improve them."

Donaghy can only speculate on why the relationship has ended, although he's pretty sure Keane didn't make the decision "on a whim" or out of the blue.

"I feel for Donie because I know how much he loves Kerry," he stresses. "Even getting onto me, trying to get different camera angles of certain phases of play last year - he's always looking at trying to do the best for his team.

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SMILING FACES: Cork hurler Patrick Horgan and Dublin footballer Dean Rock were in Abbotstown along with Sky Sports analyst, former Kerry footballer Kieran Donaghy, centre, to announce that Sky Sports will this year visit Clare, Louth, Longford and Roscommon with a special focus on Health & Wellbeing. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

SMILING FACES: Cork hurler Patrick Horgan and Dublin footballer Dean Rock were in Abbotstown along with Sky Sports analyst, former Kerry footballer Kieran Donaghy, centre, to announce that Sky Sports will this year visit Clare, Louth, Longford and Roscommon with a special focus on Health & Wellbeing. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

SMILING FACES: Cork hurler Patrick Horgan and Dublin footballer Dean Rock were in Abbotstown along with Sky Sports analyst, former Kerry footballer Kieran Donaghy, centre, to announce that Sky Sports will this year visit Clare, Louth, Longford and Roscommon with a special focus on Health & Wellbeing. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

"And a guy like that is always going to be missed, in my eyes. But I'm not in there so I'm not privy to what's going on in the set-up, and how the relationship is. And if the relationship isn't 100 per cent, it could be the right thing to do."

Moreover, he believes, Keane's track record gives him the leeway to "back his own beliefs. But yeah, it's tough on Donie because it's the second time it's happened to him in Kerry where it hasn't really worked out for him.

"When you see the level that Mayo got their defensive and tackling ability to, especially forward-wise, all the way back, it's a huge part of the game now.

"But then again Tommy Griffin, I played with him for years, he's a really good defensive guy, really sharp ... he would have had a clear understanding of what's needed to help defenders, so I presume Peter has a lot of faith in Tommy that he can execute that side of it."

This week's debate has been amplified by the consensus that if Kerry fail to end Dublin's dominance, it will be because of their ongoing defensive issues - Buckley's particular forté.

Yet according to Donaghy, none of this will even register with the Dublin players or their new boss, Dessie Farrell.

"You can't judge them really because of the conditions that all the (league) games have been played in," he says, speaking at yesterday's launch of the GAA Super Games National Blitz Day in partnership with Sky Sports. "You'd be fairly foolish to come into the Dublin set-up and want to change a load of things at the start. You'd say 'Play away lads, we'll look at a few areas to work on throughout the league'.

"But coming in when you've no time to train with them, they've been on holidays, celebrating a five-in-a-row - they still found a way to get results in three games where normal mere mortals would have been blown off the pitch," he adds, alluding to their fourth quarter comebacks against Kerry, Monaghan (most spectacularly) and Donegal.

Sucker-punch

"They eventually got caught above in Tyrone by a sucker-punch of a goal on a horrendous night. So, they're not too worried about anybody, I would say, right now and I haven't seen too much difference in them. But that's a good thing and a normal thing ... I think they'll be very hard to beat once again."

Donaghy can recall Kerry's confidence levels being pretty high in 2008 as they chased three-in-a-row, ultimately in vain. So he can only imagine Dublin's self-belief after completing five-in-a-row, and still with "brilliant players coming through - the Con O'Callaghans and these fellas are just a different level again," he admits.

"They've never let the team get too old and their main players now - the Kilkennys, the Mannions, the Fentons - are all young fellas. So, they're in a really good place, age profile wise.

"The manager, I'd say, may be trying to get one or two things in for the summer. Again, they're only little tweaks ... he'd be mad to be changing it and he's a really intelligent manager and a really shrewd guy, by all accounts.

"If some fella came in and started [changing things], I would say the players would be like, 'Hold on now a minute, we're after getting five-in-a-row, why are we changing everything?'

"You can't judge anything off the games that have been played so far - Dublin probably won't be judged until the Super 8s," he concludes.