Last Saturday the Kieran Donaghy was replaced by Colm Cooper after 44 minutes
Kerry Manager, Eamonn Fitzmaurice, decided to make a number of changes before last Saturday’s Munster Final Replay. In the drawn game, Kerry were dominated physically by Cork, as the Kingdom struggled to deal with Cork’s running game. In order to negate this aspect of Cork’s strategy, Fitzmaurice adopted a more physical approach for the replay, bringing in Aidan O’Mahony and Paul Murphy in defence, and including Anthony Maher in midfield. However Fitzmaurice decided to stick with his Captain Kieran Donaghy.
While Donaghy did not have a poor game against Cork in the first encounter between the sides, ‘The Star’ was at times outshone by Eoin Cadogan. Although Donaghy was at the centre of many of Kerry’s scores, he was not a central figure within the game. Instead of being unnerved by Donaghy, Cork’s defence looked settled by Cadogan’s presence.
Such was Cork’s dominance in the second half, that Cadogan had the confidence to leave Donaghy and join the attack. Cadogan’s runs had the effect of creating an overlap against Kerry’s midfield, and led to David Moran and Donaghy receiving black and yellow cards.
When the news of Cadogan’s injury broke before the replay, it would have been logical to expect Donaghy to exert a far greater influence. Indeed inside the first ten seconds of the replay, Kerry sent their first high ball into Donaghy. However Jamie O’Sullivan dealt with it comfortably and set the tone for the rest of the game. Time after time long balls were aimed at Donaghy, but the Cork defence dealt with them comfortably.
Although the conditions were not in Donaghy’s favour, the movement provided by the impressive Paul Geaney seemed to trouble the Cork defence to a far greater degree. The same can be said of, “man of the match”, James O’Donoghue. Both of Kerry’s corner forwards provided mobility, venturing out of their natural positions to receive the ball. They also chased and harried Cork’s defenders as they attempted to run the ball out of their own half.
Kerry’s second point of the game was indicative of their work rate. After losing a high ball to Michael Shields, Geaney got off his knees and ran twenty yards to dispossess Mark Collins. His persistence won Kerry a free in front of the goal, and led to the fracas that saw Alan O’Connor booked in the fifth minute.
Likewise O’Donoghue, despite only scoring a solitary point, was always showing for the ball, providing movement and bringing other players into the game. By virtue of the fact that O’Donoghue never panics in possession, he allows Kerry’s attacking half backs the time to take up scoring positions. Something which O’Donoghue did for Jonathan Lyne’s point in the second half.
By contrast Donaghy seemed almost static at full forward. Although he had the effect of occupying Cork’s defenders in front of the goal, against better organised blanket defences, Donaghy would need to provide much more. Indeed having been outplayed by Jamie O’Sullivan, it was little surprise to see Donaghy replaced by Colm Cooper with the scores standing at 0-9 to 1-5.
The Gooch wasted little time in getting involved in the game, taking the quick free that led to Geaney’s goal. Like his colleagues in the full forward line, Cooper provided creativity and movement, troubling the Cork defence. The Gooch made himself available throughout the Cork half of the field, giving Kerry’s defenders an easy option as they aimed to transition the ball from attack to defence. His vision and movement proving to be the antithesis of what Donaghy can offer.
Nevertheless as Aidan O’Shea proved over the weekend, there remains a place for the a big ball winner. However unlike Mayo, Kerry possess other options. A full forward line made up of Geaney, O’Donoghue and Cooper, would provide an unprecedented amount of movement for Kerry. This would be particularly important if Kerry are to come up against a claustrophobic blanket defence. The work rate of Geaney and O’Donoghue in particular, would also ensure that Kerry could begin to press opponents from high up the pitch, and pounce on any mistakes.
This seemed to be Fitzmaurice’s plan last year, as he kept Donaghy on the bench until it became necessary to call on him against Mayo. Acknowledging that as a substitute, the Kerry Captain has the ability to change the dynamic of Kerry’s forward play.
Kieran Donaghy does not possess the strength and power of O’Shea, nor does he have the ability to traverse the field as he once did. Instead he has a skill set that could be best deployed later in games. His presence would also have the effect of ratcheting up the pressure and tension under which Kerry’s opponents could very easily wilt.
Alan Drumm, Pundit Arena