KERRY LEGEND KIERAN Donaghy expects his former team-mate Tommy Walsh to have a big season for the Kingdom alongside budding stars Seán O’Shea and David Clifford.
Peter Keane’s men are 4/1 second favourites to land a first All-Ireland crown since 2014 this year, but will be expected to seal a seventh successive Munster title prior to that.
The Kingdom lost the recent Division One final to Mayo having topped the league proper and the Austin Stacks clubman feels that performance bodes well for the campaign ahead considering the age profile of the team.
Donaghy also says the lack of pre-championship expectation will help the players as they bid to stop Dublin’s ‘drive for five’.
“There is hope there, but there wouldn’t be expectation like the team that I came on to,” Sky Sports’ newest pundit told The42.
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Kieran Donaghy at today’s Sky Sports championship coverage launch at Croke Park.
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“I was ringing the schools in 2006 and 2007 asking if they wanted the cup and they’d be like: ‘No, we got it in last year, bring it in next year’. That’s expectancy and high pressure.
“I think Kerry will learn a good bit from the league final and I think for this team, it’s no harm to get a little reminder or a slap down to earth because they were playing so well, winning games and looked comfortable.
“There’s always a bounce when you bring in a new manager. It’s a very young team, but there are still very experienced players in there. It’s a really fresh start for Kerry so we didn’t really know what to expect at the start of the league.
“We knew the players were good, but we didn’t know what Peter Keane was going to be like.
He’s done a great job so far this year, the players have responded, bar the two Mayo displays, and I think they’ll be there or thereabouts come the summer.”
On the potential impacts of the aforementioned Walsh, O’Shea and Clifford, Donaghy was full of praise for the trio, especially Walsh, who he feels could have a big say in the sway of Kerry’s fortunes this summer.
“I envisage Tommy having whatever role he wants. If he keeps playing the way he is and remains injury free, there’s no reason why he can’t start for Kerry.
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“He’s a target man, but a different target man to me. Tommy is very good at winning ball out in front and I was really impressed with his hands in the few live games I saw. He was winning ball and slipping it to a guy running at 100 miles an hour off his shoulder.
“I think his hands are actually better now than when he went to Australia because the hand-passing that the Aussie Rules guys work on in their drills is second to none — it’s something I think the GAA teams need to be looking at more.
“Tommy can be the impact guy when they’re winning — to catch a few balls and win frees just to settle the ship — and the impact guy if they’re losing — put a few balls in around the house and he’ll compete. I’ve been that martyr before, coming in when you’re chasing a game, but basically you’re fighting for ball that’s like trying to win your club lotto; you’re trying to win dirty balls at that stage of a game where you’re down three or four points with a minute to go.
“I hope Tommy’s not in that position this year, but if Kerry are down three or four points, there’s no better man in the country that you’d want than Tommy Walsh coming in there.
“And the two lads [O’Shea and Clifford] are brilliant footballers: they’re so mature, they’ve their heads screwed on, they’re great guys on and off the pitch, they’re very good team-mates and there’s no selfishness or ego about them.
“They’re the perfect young superstars coming through in a team. They’re not like Paul Pogba waiting for their Rolls Royces instead of going on the bus. They’re brilliant guys and I’m sure they’ll be brilliant in that set-up.”
Kieran Donaghy was speaking as Sky Sports announced its GAA fixtures for the 2019 Championship. A total of 20 live, and 14 exclusive, fixtures of Championship action will be available on Sky’s multi-platform offering throughout the season.
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