Star shone bright in 2006 and ever since
Sean O’Sullivan played alongside Kieran Donaghy and remembers a team mate who was an infectious character, a selfless player and a brilliant footballer
Ican still recall the first time I ever heard of Kieran ‘Star’ Donaghy. My late uncle Patrick was an avid football supporter and on his return from the States in the late ’80s he rearly missed a game especially ones on the local scene. He had an arrangement with his younger brother, my father, that once the papers were read in our house he’d call in after dinner and take them away for his perusal. Patrick was the type of man who could tell you who got man of the match in the South Kerry final and what latest scrape Britney Spears had gotten herself into all in the one breath. In other words the paper would be read front to back and to front again.
One particular evening he landed a bit later than usual. He had been at a minor game in Tralee in which Austin Stacks were playing. Of course he cornered me so he could talk about the match and I can still see his smile and hear his laugh when describing this tall, thin, young fella in the middle of the field for Stacks.
“Do you know what they call him?” he said... “Star!”
My immediate thought as a country boy was that was just typical of the townies. What an arrogant nick name to give someone, especially someone who nobody had even heard of. But Patrick knew a baller when he saw one. “You know... he has something about him. He could cause fierce problems at the edge of the square.”
My uncle passed away around Christmas of 2005 so never got to see his prediction realised and Kieran Donaghy live up to the hype. When the final whistle went after the 2007 All-Ireland final myself and Kieran ran arm in arm to Hill ’16 to celebrate with the Kerry supporters. We had just won back-to-back Championships and he had played another huge part in both causing fierce problems on the edge of the square!
I think if you lined up every guy that has had the pleasure of sharing a dressing room with Kieran – football or basketball – and asked them what was the big man’s best quality they will tell you the same
thing. Sure, he is a larger than life character, and I don’t just mean his height, and without a doubt he’s a guy who oozes self-confidence, but I have never met a player who puts the team before himself more than Donaghy. For me he was the ultimate teammate.
He arrived into the Kerry setup in 2005. I spent that particular year traveling, but kept in touch with what was happening back home. I would have been in regular contact with Diarmuid Murphy and recall him mentioning Kieran. By all accounts he had taken to the inter-county scene with no problems at all, but had yet to see any consistent game time under Jack O’Connor. Murph often remarked what an infectious attitude Donaghy had though, and that even for a young guy had no problem speaking at team meetings and was always willing to learn from those around him.
When I got back into the squad the following year Star was again only seeing limited time on the pitch and was used more as a replacement midfielder more than anywhere else. After winning the League all seemed to be going well for us, but we came unstuck in the Munster Championship. Cork turned us over and we had to head for the Qualifiers. To say that our year turned on the introduction of Kieran at full forward is an understatement. He was a revelation.
We had lacked a real focal point to our attack when Gooch and Mike Frank Russell were kept quiet and Star just brought a whole new dimension to our attack. He would go on to lead us to glory that year and ever since has been a fantastic servant to Kerry football.
He always played with his heart, giving everything he had for the Kerry jersey. Even in the past few seasons with a lot of miles on the clock he still had something to offer and did so when asked, even if it killed him not to start every game. I think that was his best trait. His unselfishness. Even when he suffered personal disappointment he never let it show. He was all about the team.
I have never met a player who put the team before himself more than Donaghy. For me he was the ultimate teammate.
Kieran Donaghy celebrates with Colm Cooper after scoring his second and Kerry’s third goal in the 2007 All-Ireland SFC Final against Cork. TOP RIGHT: Kerry’s Kieran Donaghy lifts the Sam Maguire Cup after the 2006 Final BOTTOM RIGHT: Donaghy following the Munster SFC Final win over Cork at Páirc Ui Chaoimh in CorkPhotos by Sportsfile