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Adam Moynihan: JOD is still a serious weapon to have in your arsenal

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James O'Donoghue during the Munster GAA Football Senior Championship Final. PICTURE: BRENDAN MORAN/SPORTSFILE

When Tony Leen reached out to me back in May, just before the intercounty GAA season started, I had no idea what he wanted me for. The Irish Examiner Sports Editor had DMed me asking if I could help him with an article he was writing. When the phone rang the next day, that was as much as I knew.

I answered the call and the question he put to me caught me on the hop. “Is there a kick in your clubmate James O’Donoghue?”

For a brief moment I considered taking evasive action. Going full Peter Keane. “Yerrah, I wouldn’t know much about that kind of thing, Tony. I’ll tell you, we had a neighbour there going back years ago and he used always say…” etc. When you’re a journalist, talking about your own club and your own clubmates is never easy. Say something positive and you’re being biased. Say something negative and you’re being disloyal. Some people can accept that it’s just your job and you’re giving an honest opinion. Others only see things in terms of “agendas” (perhaps because that’s how their own minds operate).

In the end, I didn’t really have time to formulate a masterplan with Tony waiting for my answer, so I told him the truth. James is an unbelievable player. He has shown that he can still do it in the recent past. If he stays injury-free, he will do it again. I said I couldn’t see him packing it in.

I know James reasonably well going back as far as our UL days and while the general public recognise him as someone with a cheeky, devil-may-care attitude towards the game and towards life, there is a fiercely determined side to him as well. Like all great players, he is ultra-competitive and extremely driven. Without ever asking him about it explicitly, I have no doubt whatsover that he desperately wants to get back to the highest level.

Considering how plagued he has been by injuries since that glorious 2014 campaign, he probably would have quit years ago if he didn’t have that appetite to come back in and contribute to the team.

That’s why the news that he was stepping away from the panel came as such a surprise to me. The narrative going around is that he has been forced to make this decision due to those aforementioned injury concerns, but, to the best of my knowledge, he has been injury-free of late. In fact, word on the street is that he did very well in a recent training match prior to the Munster semi-final.

He didn’t make the squad for that trip to Thurles, however, and apparently he also did not feature in a subsequent A versus B game, despite being available for selection. That would appear to have left O’Donoghue as the 13th choice forward on the panel. At best. Supporters might have assumed that his absence from the matchday squad was due to injury, but Peter Keane simply wasn’t picking him. Which, to be fair, is his prerogative as manager.

In my opinion, for whatever that’s worth, you would be very hard-pressed to find two forwards in Kerry who are more talented than James O’Donoghue, let alone 12. A fit O’Donoghue is such a great weapon to have in your arsenal – it’s certainly not one I’d be inclined to leave behind going into battle.

Whether or not this “step away” amounts to an actual retirement in the longer-term remains to be seen. The general feeling in the media and amongst supporters is that he’s done with Kerry for good but personally I think he would have just retired if he wanted to retire. O’Donoghue is 31, which isn’t exactly ancient, and County Board chairman Tim Murphy has spoken of the Killarney man's desire to play some club football "to see could he get some form back and see where that would take him”. He scored 1-2 in 30 minutes for Legion at the weekend. He can still do it if given the opportunity.

O’Donoghue will have plenty of fire in the belly for the upcoming County and Club Championships, that’s for sure. Then again, he always does.

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Kerry ladies must bounce back at home to Waterford

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All-Ireland Senior Championship Group 2

Kerry v Waterford

Saturday 3pm

Fitzgerald Stadium

The Kerry ladies will be looking to get back to winning ways against Waterford on Saturday following last weekend’s frustrating draw against Donegal in Ballybofey.

The Kingdom led with seconds remaining in treacherous conditions but a late Donegal free snatched a draw for the home side (Donegal 1-6 Kerry 0-9). It was a game that Kerry would have been expecting to win and the result puts a lot more pressure on them this weekend as they try to top the three-team group and earn a home quarter-final.

If they beat Waterford and Donegal do likewise next week, Kerry and Donegal will be level in first place on four points each. The top seed will then be decided by the head-to-head record between the teams. As Kerry v Donegal was a draw, the deciding factor will be whoever scored the most points in that draw. That would be good news for Kerry as they scored nine points to Donegal’s six.

When Kerry and Waterford last met (in this year’s Munster Championship), Kerry needed a late winner by Fiadhna Tangney to prevail by narrowest of margins (1-8 to 1-7). If Waterford beat Kerry and then lose to Donegal, Kerry would be eliminated from the championship.

The Kerry squad has been boosted by the return of Síofra O’Shea who came off the bench against Donegal following a lengthy period out with a knee injury.

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US-bound Kerry runner Lynch hopes to emulate Mageean magic

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by Adam Moynihan

Killarney middle distance runner Oisín Lynch is taking inspiration from newly crowned European 1500m champion Ciara Mageean as he gets set for the next stage of his career in the United States.

This week Lynch confirmed that he will be heading Stateside after accepting a scholarship at Adams State University in Colorado. The promising 800m and 1500m competitor caught the eye of coaches at the leading American college after representing Ireland in the Youth Olympics and also by winning two national titles in recent months.

Speaking to the Killarney Advertiser, the 18-year-old Killarney Valley AC athlete, who is currently doing his Leaving Cert at St Brendan’s College, says he one day hopes to emulate Mageean’s heroics on the international stage.

“The Irish are on the up at underage and at senior level,” Lynch notes. “We have been improving a lot in recent years. When you see Ciara Mageean winning the 1500m it just shows that it can be done by Irish people.

“Sometimes Irish athletes don’t really believe in themselves when they’re getting knocked out of championships by English or European athletes. Mageean winning that European title is definitely something to drive me on. It shows that I can actually do it.”

DREAM

For Lynch, moving to the United States is a hugely significant step, and one that he has dreamed about making since he was a child.

“It’s unbelievable. I always hoped I could earn a scholarship. I worked hard over the last few years, so it’s nice to see that work paying off.

“I had a few schools onto me but when Adams State got in touch, I sized it up and I knew it was a really good opportunity.

“The fact that the college is at 7,500 feet… That’s a crazy altitude. It’s double the height of Carrauntoohil. Altitude training has massive benefits for distance running and nowadays nearly every pro spends most of their year training at altitude. The chance to get that training for the next couple of years is great.

“And their athletics programme is unbelievable. Coach Damon Martin has been there for 40 years and he has coached 12 Olympians. Adams State is in the top 15 for distance in the country and the standard out there in America is very high.”

STRIDES

Killarney Valley AC have made enormous strides since building their new, state-of-the-art facility in 2020 and Lynch is a grateful beneficiary of that progress.

“I can’t thank the club enough. Going back a couple of years we were training on grass in parks. When you want to be a track runner, it’s just not the same. After a lot of hard work by a lot of good people, we managed to get a 200-metre track in Killarney. That’s massive for us and it’s all we need for training.

“The coaches down there are putting in the hard work, including my dad (Con), Tomás Griffin, Jean Courtney, Jerry Griffin, Bríd Stack, Alan Delaney… I could go on. It’s a great club and there are some good athletes coming through. It’s an exciting time for Killarney Valley.”

After Lynch completes his Leaving Cert, he will start preparing for life as a college athlete. He will study kinesiology in Colorado and on the track he hopes to keep on moving in the right direction. That means getting his times down (his current PBs are 1.50.59 over 800m and 3.51 over 1500m), representing Ireland, and hopefully winning a national title in America.

“Obviously I’ll take every step as it comes,” the ambitious Kerryman says, “but the Olympics is the main long-term target, hopefully in LA in 2028.”

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