All-Ireland Semi-Final: Donaghy can help Kingdom to glory
Not too many Ulster defenders have shared in the elation of curbing the renowned Kerry attack in All-Ireland finals.
But Tyrone’s vastly experienced Joe McMahon knows just what is required to subdue a Kingdom forward division that is invariably spliced with marquee players.
McMahon helped quell Kerry’s deadly sniping in the 2008 decider as the Red Hands went on to win the Sam Maguire Cup for a third time in five years.
But now, with Mickey Harte’s side having exited this year’s competition, the belief that Kerry can reclaim Sam is gathering substance — and McMahon, a coaching officer with the Tyrone county board, subscribes to this theory.
“You would have to say that they have a good chance of beating Mayo on Sunday in the semi-final,” observes McMahon. “They overcame them in the All-Ireland finals of 2004 and 2006 and they certainly won’t carry any psychological baggage into this match.”
And it’s a player whose roots are in Tyrone who could actually inflict real damage on Mayo’s chances of making it into an All-Ireland final meeting with either Dublin or Donegal.
The father of Kerry full-forward Kieran Donaghy hails from Cookstown but now, not surprisingly, sees sporting life very much through green and gold spectacles.
It’s Donaghy’s imposing presence, deft flicks and unselfish lay-offs that could pose major problems for a Mayo defence that showed superb resilience in beating reigning All-Ireland champions Cork in the quarter-finals.
“Donaghy is certainly a handful for any defence because of his height and aerial ability. He is the ideal target man in the Kerry attack and he provides the ammunition for players like Colm Cooper and Darran O’Sullivan to hurt teams,” maintains McMahon, who is preparing to help Omagh St Enda’s make a bold bid for the Tyrone championship title.
While Donaghy provides an Ulster link of sorts in the Kerry side, Mayo midfielder Ronan McGarrity has strong ties to the province as his father, a bookmaker in Ballina, is from Irvinestown and his mother hails from Dromore in Tyrone.
McGarrity is vying for a midfield berth having made a full recovery from testicular cancer which at one stage threatened his playing career. He has given outstanding service to Mayo and is likely to get game time against the Kingdom, although Seamus O’Shea and Aidan O’Shea are in line to form the starting midfield partnership.
“It’s always encouraging to see any player make a return to full health after a bad injury or illness and obviously Ronan, like the rest of the Mayo lads, will be hoping to reach the All-Ireland final,” adds McMahon.
Kerry overcame Mayo with some comfort in the 2004 and 2006 All-Ireland finals and given the solid core of experience within their side, the favourites’ mantle for Sunday will rest easily on their shoulders.