It probably should have been expected but none the less it came as a bolt out of the blue when news broke on Radio Kerry on Tuesday morning (Sept 11th) of Kieran Donaghy’s retirement from the Kerry SF Panel after 14 outstanding seasons.
Kieran made his Senior debut with the county in a NFL game in Austin Stack Park, coming on as a sub against Offaly on 12th Feb 2005 – winning the first of his two NFL medals later that year. And the following July (10th) he made his Championship debut in Kerry’s Munster Final win against Cork (1-11 to 0-11) – coming on as a sub in Páirc Uí Chaoimh and winning the first of his 10 Munster Championship medals.
He made his first Championship start the following year (2006) in the opening round against Waterford in Fitzgerald Stadium – lining out at centre field. However when Kerry lost to Cork later that summer in the replayed Munster Final, and had to go through the ’back door’ as it was referred to then, the astute Jack O’Connor found a new role for ‘Star’ at full forward and, as they say, the rest is history.
His first score in Senior Championship football came in that 4th round qualifier game against Longford in Killarney (29th July) and his first goal came in the following game – the All Ireland Quarter Final (5th Aug) against Armagh in Croke Park – the Francie Bellow goal as it’s often referred to. He went on to win the first of his four All Ireland medals later that September when he played a significant role in Kerry’s win over Mayo (4-15 to 3-5) – scoring 1-2 himself and putting Declan O’Sullivan through for Kerry’s first goal which set us on the road to victory. Arguably 2006 was, marginally, his greatest year as he won not alone Munster and All Ireland medals but he also won the first of his three All Star Awards and the Player of the Year Award.
Two more medals came the following year – both at the expense of Cork – whom Kerry defeated in the Munster Final (1-15 to 1-13) and also in the All Ireland Final (3-13 to 1-9). Star scored two goals in tha All Ireland Final – a feat very seldom achieved. In fact of the 69 times that Kerry have played in All Ireland Finals (37 wins, 23 losses and 9 draws) they have scored 76 goals. And only seven players have scored two goals or more in a final – and three of those have been Rockies – as well as Star in 2007 the other two were John Joe Purty Landers in 1937 and Mikey Sheehy in 1979. The other four Kerrymen were the Bomber Liston in 1978 with the all-time record of three goals and two each by Tim O’Leary (1937 replay), Dan Spring (1939) and Dan McAuliffe (1959).
Despite missing out to Tyrone in the All Ireland Final of 2008 he went on to win his 2nd All Star Award later that year. Then in 2009 Kerry did a repeat of 2006 when they (and Star) won the NFL and All Ireland double again.
Since 2010 Kerry’s most victories have come at Provincial level. In those nine seasons (2010 to 2018 incl) Kerry have won eight Munster Championships, bringing Star’s total in this category to ten. Apart from 2006 Kieran’s most significant year during this period was in 2014 when he won his 4th All Ireland medal, scoring another important goal in the Final against Donegal and also winning his 3rd All Star Award.
2014 was also an important year in his Club career, winning the Club’s 12th Co. Championship title and thereafter their second Munster Championship title. That County win bestowed the Kerry captaincy on Star during 2015 as they went on to contest the All Ireland Final against Dublin on that rainy September Sunday. Sadly on that day they lost to the men from the Capital by three points (0-12 to 0-9) with Kieran confined to the bench and only seeing action for the last 25 minutes of the game.
And while all that success has been important the other side to Kieran’s time as a Kerry footballer (and still, thankfully, with his Club) has been his ability, both on and off the pitch, to harness and influence the players around him. It would, for example, be interesting to dig out the stats which would show the number of times he had put his colleagues around him through for scores vis-à-vis going for his own scores.
So a glittering career at County level where, to summarize, he won 4 All Irelands, 2 NFLs, 10 Munsters, 3 All Stars and Player of the Year in 2006. And at Club level we hope to see him in action on the playing field for another year or two at least (Kieran look at this Kirby young lad for God sake – winning a Junior Championship a few days ago and scoring an important goal in the process).
Read more on Kieran in The Austin Stacks Centenary History Book (Page 192/193).
Kieran in action for Austin Stacks in Rd 1 of this year’s Senior Co. Championship V Kenmare District (Sept 1st 2018).