Kerry football was rocked this week with the news that Donie Buckley had stepped away from his role within the senior management team with immediate effect.
The highly-respected coach returned to coach his native county just 18 months ago with news of his departure causing shockwaves given the timing of the decision.
Former Kingdom player Kieran Donaghy expressed his disappointment at the decision but admitted that Buckley’s appointment was the county board’s decision rather than Peter Keane’s and that’s not a great footing to start on.
“I think he was the county board’s pick. Peter Keane was happy with his management team. It’s probably not a great footing to get off on anyway. I’m disappointed.
“I think I said on Off The Ball this morning that he’s a professional GAA coach. There isn’t too many around. He’s retired. He travels to Australia to see Aussie Rules’ set-ups, he tries to see what they do tactically and mould GAA teams around it.
“He does the same with basketball. He lives in Florida in the winter and he goes down to colleges and high-level college programmes, gets in there and sees how they work with the teams, etc. He’ll be a loss to Kerry, but at the end of the day, Peter Keane has been very successful with his own management team. So he’ll probably take it as a nothing, and what-gone.”
Donaghy continued to say that he was disappointed for Buckley but that the decision must be respected at this stage.
“It’s just when you look at Dublin and Jim Gavin, they’re able to bring in other coaches; Mark Ingle and different people into the set-up, to have a helping role and I think Donie could have had that helping role. Whether Donie wanted more, I’m not privy to that. But I think overall it’s, knowing Donie and how much he loves Kerry, I’m disappointed for him that he’s not part of the set-up anymore. But you have to respect whatever way it went down too.”
Buckley’s previous stint with Kerry under manager Jack O’Connor came to a similar ending as he stepped away from the setup prior to the 2012 championship.
However, Donaghy believes it might be slightly different this time. ‘Star’ admits it is a big decision for Keane to make but that Kerry already have a good defensive coach in Tommy Griffin who has worked closely with Keane for a number of years.
“I don’t think he was the county board’s pick when we were there, so it might be slightly different. But he was out there as a coach, and I think the county board said ‘this guy is too good not to have so we’ll take him on’.
“Maybe Peter didn’t want him taken on. Maybe the relationship wasn’t where it needed to be – to be harmonious and working well, and both feeding off each other, both helping each other and be open to each others’ ideas. I’d say that’s between Peter and Tommy Griffin. And Tommy is a very good defensive guy as well, and a very good coach in his own right. Maybe that’s where Peter wanted to go with it.
“It’s a big decision to make.”
Given he is effectively a free agent, it’s not out of the question that another county could secure Buckley’s services. However, Donaghy doesn’t believe that a private guy such as Buckley would join another county given his in-depth knowledge of the current Kerry setup.
“I don’t think Donie would do it this year, to be honest, because he has a real in-depth knowledge of the Kerry set-up up to a few weeks ago.
“So it probably wouldn’t be Donie I’d say. He’s a very private guy, he’s brilliant at what he does. I just don’t see him jumping on board with somebody else.”
The decision seemingly adds a lot of pressure to what is an already highly-pressurised role for Keane with many claiming that he knows has to win the All-Ireland or the knives will be out.
However, Donaghy is straight to the point when he says that Peter Keane he knows couldn’t give a shit what other people think.
“Kerry have to go deliver every year.
“He won’t see that though, because, to put it mildly, he “doesn’t give a shit” what people think. He’s doing what he thinks is best for him and his management team and his players.
“He wouldn’t not make a decision because of how it would look on the outside. That’s one thing I could say about Peter. He’s very straight and to the point. He doesn’t care what people think, or what people might say or try and conjure up ideas, as to why it’s not working if it doesn’t work this year.
“He came in last year, he got a massive bounce off the players, and they were very unlucky not to win the All-Ireland the first day out. They’ll have to go back, they’ll know the areas they have to work on, they know defence is an issue, whether Donie is there or not, it’s an issue they’re going to have to work on and improve.
“They’re getting Peter Crowley back who’s a massive loss to us last year. And they’ll be looking to try and drive it home. He’ll be trusting of Maurice Fitzgerald and Tommy Griffin and himself, he feels that’s the best way to go for him right now, and if he feels that, he has to go with it whether it’s popular or unpopular, or if it adds pressure, or doesn’t add pressure.
“It’s the life of a manager, and it’s not easy. You’ve big calls to make. He’s made a big one. Throughout his career, he’s done well on the back of his calls.”