‘If I had it back now, I would have gone again’: Ó Sé on retiring a year too early

DARRAN O’SULLIVAN THIS week became the latest Kerry footballer to announce his inter-county retirement, following Anthony Maher, Donnchadh Walsh and Kieran Donaghy out the Kingdom exit door. 

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Kerry legend Tomás Ó Sé feels Donaghy may have had another year in him, particularly given the proposed new mark rule that may come in for next year’s Allianz League. 

“They’ve lost Donaghy, who is a guy I think could easily have gone on for another year, so Kerry have lost a couple of fellas now,” he said. 

“I don’t know, maybe it’s the fact they mark is coming in now – could have used him a good bit!

“Ah no, before that even. Donaghy is another guy like Andy Moran, he’s a big man, a big unit, but he minds himself. He’s been playing basketball during the off-season. It’s the energy he brings to the dressing room.

“The younger lads would be looking at him and they’d be in awe of him I would say. It’s a huge step up for these minors and U21s to enter a senior dressing room. There is more about it than just performing on the pitch, and Donaghy is the ideal guy to bring lads on.

“You’d have other fellas inside in dressing rooms who’d be quiet. They might have been there for years and be great leaders on the field, but they’re quiet. Donaghy was the kind of guy you want inside in a dressing room.

“And from that aspect, as well as playing because nobody can say he didn’t have an impact on the field of play this year, he did, so I think he is a loss, yeah. I think he could have gone on for another year. Donaghy is based in Kerry, I know he is a busy man and he’s got a young family, but he made it work.”

Donaghy retired after the 2018 campaign.

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

At the end of 2013, Ó Sé hung up his boots at 35, the same age Donaghy is now. The following season, Kerry went on to unexpectedly lift the Sam Maguire, beating Donegal in the final. 

He did enjoy an extended club career, lining out with Nemo Rangers in the All-Ireland club final last St Patrick’s Day at the age of 39, but admits he may have ended his Kingdom career a year early.

“Looking back, the way the game was going and the way the game was pushing I’d say if I had it back now I would have gone again,” said the five-time All-Ireland winner.

“But at the time I kind of had my fill of it. My back was giving in a small bit. Jeez, I’m happy with the decision I made, I had a great career, but had I it back now I probably would have gone on.

“The fact they won in 2014 as well, but at the time it didn’t look like that. It didn’t look like that at the end of April either when they were hockeyed by Cork, but that’s the way it goes.

“I think I decided throughout that season that I’d have one last whack, like. We lost to Dublin in 2011, in 2012 we lost to Donegal and 2013, even though the Dubs were hot favourites, we knew we were going to rattle them.

“I wasn’t thinking about that game specifically, I genuinely thought we were going to get to a final, and we very nearly did. But I knew straight after the game. It wasn’t that my time was up, I suppose I felt I didn’t want to do it anymore, like.

“I couldn’t give the same that I was giving,” Ó Sé continued. “I had been thinking about it for a while. I decided after 2012 I’d give it another go, gave it a great shot and finishing in one of the best games ever played, fellas say that was a great game. I haven’t watched it back. But yeah, happy enough with what I did anyway.”

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New Kingdom boss Peter Keane has lost four players to retirement already.

Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Two of the main challengers to Dublin’s five-in-a-row bid have appointed new managers, with Peter Keane replacing Eamonn Fitzmaurice in Kerry, while James Horan has returned to the Mayo post. 

“I think a lot of guys were eager to see Peter Keane getting a chance. The fact that he’s been so successful at minor level, he’s carried a lot of those players through. 

“I’d be happy enough with it. I think nowadays it’s also the fellas you surround yourself with. I think that’s just as important. 

“It’s very important obviously to get the manager right, but you have to surround yourself with the right fellas and I think the package he’s brought in there is as good as you can get.

“I think it’s exciting that Horan’s gone back in. I think there has to be something there that he believes. If anyone can get something out of them, he can. I’d be hopeful to see that there’s a couple of young lads coming through as well.

James Horan is back in charge of Mayo.

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“Everybody says that this Mayo doesn’t have the bottle to get across the line or whatever, I don’t buy into that at all. I think they had plenty of bottle. I just don’t think they had forwards to finish it off.

“So I was delighted to see Horan going in there actually. He has a good bond with that team and he’d know more about Mayo football than we would and he knows the club scene a lot more because he’s been managing the last couple of years.

“The fact that he’s in there, I wouldn’t write Mayo off at all, at all.”

When asked if any of the pretenders are capable of knocking Dublin off their perch, The Sunday Game pundit was not optimistic.

“The thing about the five-in-a-row for me is that there’s nobody stepping up. When I say stepping up, outside of Mayo, who a lot of people are saying now have missed their chance, there isn’t anyone really coming close to the Dubs the last couple of years.

“Kerry, possibly. But are Kerry in a position from what we’ve seen this year? No. I think Dublin are that bit ahead of everybody at the moment. The five-in-a-row, it’s not an impossibility like.

“But it’s a dangerous thing, nobody has done it. The great Kilkenny team, the great Kerry team. It’s very hard. A pressure comes with it. There was no talk out of the Dublin camp about four-in-a-row. They’re good at that, that’s a compliment, not a cute, sly comment. It’s good the way they handle it.

“They’re such a focused group, I don’t think the talk will bother them. I don’t think the talk outside bothered them this year, and I think it’s up to the other teams to step up.

“Are they capable of stepping up? I’m not too sure to be honest with you.”

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