By Michael McMullan
AIDAN O’Mahony isn’t surprised that former Kingdom team mate Kieran Donaghy got involved in management and feels Armagh will be a better team for his involvement in Kieran McGeeney’s backroom team.
Donaghy will be on the other side of the line this weekend when his native Kerry come to the Athletic Grounds.
In a feature interview for next week’s Gaelic Life, O’Mahony speaks of Donaghy’s ‘infectious personality’ and how he can bring a combination of Gaelic football and basketball to his coaching role.
“He is very genuine and any group he goes into, you’d be taken by him,” said O’Mahony, who coached alongside him in the Sigerson Cup with MTU Kerry.
“He has too much to offer with the GAA and basketball not to be involved. For him, he is finding his feet and no better than to go up to Armagh with Kieran McGeeney, a fella I have unbelievable respect for.
“McGeeney has been involved in management for years and what better than to go away for a few years and do your apprenticeship.”
From lining out together for Kerry and ‘killing each other’ in training for a decade, Donaghy and O’Mahony brought the best out in on another for battles coming down the tracks later in the season.
“He had a great way about him,” O’Mahony continued. “With Armagh, for a forward he would be a great coach with his movement. He was always double teamed or he was targeted.”
And knowing the runs needed to create space, O’Mahony feels it puts him in a good place to help with the coaching of defenders.
“When he played full forward, I would tell my two corner backs to mark their own men because he was very good at catching ball.
“You’d have a corner back looking up at him and he’d have the ball slipped off to the forward. He was always very good.”
O’Mahony played a starring role in Kerry’s last All-Ireland win when he came out on top in his duel with Michael Murphy and he puts Donaghy’s input in the drawn semi-final with Mayo as the moment that ‘changed the year’.
It was marking Donaghy in training that helped him prepare for what Murphy brought to the Donegal attack.
“Kieran is one of those players, even to the last minute, he is never out of the game. One ball and he’ll turn a game, that’s his mind-set,” O’Mahony said.
“It’s the same with the basketball; he is full of energy and knowledge. He is very open-minded and you can see with Armagh already, they are playing more openly in the forwards, they are playing with their tails up.”
O’Mahony speaks of the drive Kieran McGeeney brings to a team and having Ciaran McKeever for the ‘defensive side’ of the management ticket.
Donaghy, as a player, was the target man you’d play the ball to, 30-70 against, and O’Mahony still expected to still get something from.
Watching Armagh’s win over Dublin, he could see the Donaghy stamp on Armagh’s game, with Rian O’Neill lighting it up in the inside forward line.
“There was more openness and they were kicking the ball,” said O’Mahony, who has been working with the Kerry minors in recent seasons.
“Nowadays, the inside forwards, they can all win their own ball. If you are talking about trying to break down a defence, then the first time ball is hugely effective and that’s where Donaghy comes in.
“People always said about Donaghy, that everything that went in high, he got it. I remember marking him and the hardest part to mark was the popped ball in front of him, he was quick and because of his stature, he was always going to win it with you.”
Any he’d we ‘well able’ for the battle and O’Mahony recalls.
“I remember, inside in Dr Crokes, one night there was such a crowd inside the place and the two of us ended going over the wire and I ended up going for stitches, I was more the aggressor, but I came out worse from it,” Aidan laughs.
“He has that aggression, he is the full package. What he brings as a coach, I think he brings all those elements that any forward needs to look out for.”
As a defender, O’Mahony feels the two key ingredients in a top forward are the ability to make space and the workrate needed to make that happen in an era when the opponents’ key focus is clogging up the scoring zone.
“The Dubs were unbelievable at it,” O’Mahony points out. “Bernard Brogan never came outside the 20 metre line; he played in the danger zone.
“To play in the danger zone, number one, you have to be very selfish but, number two, your workrate needs to be through the charts.
“Even in that danger zone, the tightest corner backs were right up behind him but he was well able to win the ball. He knew where he was, that’s what Donaghy would bring as well.
“You’d see Donaghy’s great scores, he was always in what we’d call the sweet spot where he knew he’d be able to kick the ball over the bar.
“That’s what Armagh are bringing now, with Rian O’Neill and these boys, they know their positions. They know where their kicking ability is and they are getting that ball in there.”
Check out next week’s Gaelic Life for the full interview.
READ MORE – Cathal McShane on Tyrone’s survival mission. Click here…