Ulster will have major say in All-Ireland final
A duo with Ulster blood in their veins will be central participants in Sunday’s All-Ireland football final between Dublin and Kerry.
Referee Joe McQuillan will take charge of his first Sam Maguire Cup decider while Kerry full-forward Kieran Donaghy, whose father hails from Cookstown, will have a key role in the Kerry attack.
The National Referees Appointments Committee took on board McQuillan’s consistency, composure and ability to cope with the demands of top-flight championship fixtures when confirming his appointment and the Cavan man is delighted to be honoured in this way.
“Obviously I am looking forward to the game. The All-Ireland final is always a great occasion,” says McQuillan.
As for Donaghy he admits he is “really staggered” by the hype surrounding the game.
“We have played in several recent All-Ireland finals but I have never seen such a hunt for tickets. This is bringing things to a whole new level. There is serious hype and I am really staggered by it all,” admits Donaghy.
When Kerry staged their pre-final Press briefing on Saturday so great was the turn-out of media personnel that arrangements had to be hastily made to ensure they were all accommodated in the committee rooms at Fitzgerald Stadium Killarney.
“While the interest is phenomenal, it is worth bearing in mind that both teams have made huge sacrifices to get this far. Players have had to pass up on weddings, social occasions and family get-togethers as they have tried to keep their focus over the course of the championship,” says Donaghy.
Having fallen to Down at the quarter-final stage last year, Kerry’s stock suffered a blow — a fact Donaghy readily concedes.
“There was a lot of pain and hurt after that beating by Down and we vowed afterwards that we would come back stronger this year,” he points out.
Dublin’s performances in brushing aside Tyrone and then squeezing past Donegal have convinced Donaghy that Pat Gilroy’s side will be extremely fired up on Sunday.
“I know myself from playing against Ulster sides like Tyrone and Donegal their defences don’t give you an inch,” said Donaghy.
“So you would have to say that Dublin had all the answers in both games — they stuck to their guns and toughed it out whereas Dublin sides of the past might have folded up their tent and gone home.”
Donaghy will join Kerry skipper Colm ‘Gooch’ Cooper and Alan Brogan in forming a dynamic Kerry full-forward line that Kerry manager Jack O’Connor hopes can pave the way to victory.
With Cooper in superb form just now — he scored 1-7 in a five-star showing against Mayo — Donaghy, as the target man, is hoping to prove the foil once more for his gifted captain.
“Obviously the onus will be on us to create and get scores. This is not just about winning a match – it is about extending the Kerry legacy and throwing down the gauntlet to up and coming players to continue the tradition,” insists Donaghy.
And he believes that Dublin’s psyche and confidence, so often fragile in the past when the championship heat was turned up, will have been considerably boosted following their 0-8 to 0-6 win over Donegal.
“They asked big questions of themselves in that game and then answered them They played with such high quality against Tyrone too that they will go into Sunday’s game knowing they are capable of delivering a big performance,” adds Donaghy.