The apple never falls fare from the tree - profile of James ODonoghue

September 16th, 2014
by Weeshie Fogarty

It was the Tuesday following that superb Kerry/Dublin All Ireland semi-final last year, won at the death by Dublin in dramatic fashion. I stopped off at a petrol station on the Muckross Rd Killarney for a top up and as I was about to head away James o Donoghue pulled up along side me and of course the topic was that epic game.  Needless to say I just had to quiz him about that beautifully struck penalty he had dispatched to the Dublin net in front of Hill 16. How nervous was he facings Stephen Cluxton before the baying mob of Dublin blue clad supporters? His answer typified for me the attitude The Legion star has displayed all this summer lighting up the championship with his magnificent and spectacular scorning exploits.  Was he nervous? "No" was his immediate reply, "I just made up my mind where I was going to stick it, took no notice of the Hill and just went for it".

He made it all sound so simple and when he stepped up in Limerick two weeks ago to score those expertly taken penalties against Mayo, one to the goalie's right and one to his left it just proved if proof positive was needed that this young man has one of the most important assets of all, a gift displayed by great strikers in all field sport, ice cool nerves in the white heat of battle. You can have all the other qualities which make up a special player but without this special attribute you will not succeed.

It's the old adage in Kerry when we speak of great footballers, "the apple never falls far from the tree", and in James o Donoghue case there was never a truer word spoken. His father Diarmuid also a Legion man was an outstanding forward winning two All Ireland medals during that great Mick o Dwyer era. He was part of that panel from 1980-1984 and topped the Kerry scoring list during the National League victory of 1984 registering 4-14. Man-of–the Match in Killarneys county championship victory in 1983 Diarmuid, just like his son a citog also played his best football from the left corner forward position. James grandfather James o Donoghue was a renowned GAA figure in Kerry and he too won an All ireland Connelly Cup medal for psychiatric hospitals in Croke Park in 1959 on a team trained by the legendary Kerry trainor Dr Eamon o Sullivan. Then in the seventies James father and uncle Donal were back in Croke Park helping the very same hospital reclaim that All ireland title.

James was always going to make the grade; I have had the privilege of seeing him in action for all age groups both with club and county as he climbed the proverbial ladder. He had that touch of class, that little something which immediately caught the eye, the ability to get the score when most needed. Legion chairman Jimmy Reen, a close family friend when asked his memories of James refers to "the breeding from both sides. "His father", Jimmy recalls "played a huge part in his development and was always coaching, encouraging and ferrying him to training and games and his mother Rita was her self a hugely competitive cross country runner and basketball player and in fact she can be still seen running and training in the Killarney National Park. He has got that totally fierce competitive edge which makes him so lethal a finisher near goal from both parents".

Jimmy then added "James always stood out and I can vividly recall his winning scores as twelve year old in an East Kerry final against Rathmore. He would always pop up and score when most needed. Physically he has got very strong and this has given him great power, therefore his high scoring rate. He was always top scorer for those under age sides and believe it or not the only player capable to hold him to a reasonable score was his Kerry team mate Fionn Fitzgerald".

I dropped in to see our senior team training last Wednesday evening, James had a night off from Kerry duty and there he was with his Kerry teammates from the Legion Jonathan Lyne and Brian Kelly, dedicated club men, togged out in their track suites watching on, lending their support to the lads just by their presence. Exemplary team trainor Pedar Keane who has guided his side back to division one of the county league was lavish in his praise of James. "  His presence at training is highly important, he adds great positivity to everything and the lads love mixing with him, he is a very laid back young man and for me what makes him special on the field is the way he can explode out of the turn, and bang, he is gone.  He has great power and a special player to work with".

Just when you believe you have seen all the great and special Kerry forwards such as Maurice Fitzgerald Mickey Sheehy, Colm Cooper, John Egan, Pat Spillane and others along comes James o Donoghue. It never ceases to amaze me how each individual great has completely different gifts.  James work rate on the field is massive, always running into the open spaces and when he gains possession, lightning fast turn and explodes away from his marker all in one split second, it's a marvelous sight.  His devastating speed from standing position is a nightmare for defenders.

He once told me his father kept after him in the back garden to improve his so called right weak leg, and now he is equally prolific with either foot. This is a massive bonus for any footballer and in fact having scored 8-48 in his seventeen championship outings to date (his debut was against Cork in the 2011 Munster final) I would bet that his scores are more or less equally divided off both feet.  And for the record he has scored a total of 7-34 in twenty one National League games.  Impressive stuff in any mans language.

James o Donoghue is a very self assured and confident young man both on and off the field. Highly courteous and unassuming to talk to he has that touch of cockiness which I have seen over the years in townie forwards.  And there is a big difference between been arrogant and cocky, James plays the game and lives the life of a star footballer with a smile on his face and indeed the manner in which he approaches and plays his football mirrors his personality. That cheeky little wink he gave to the RTE cameras when stepping up to accept his All Star Award last year might have been a message to defenders around the country warning them, "watch out I am coming to get you".

However on the field he is the deadly assassin and when he gets near the goal his finish to the net is all about power, his goals this year against Galway and then in the drawn game against Mayo typified this.  But he is not all about goals and his ten glorious points in the recent Munster final were all kicked from varying distances and angles, off both feet.  Now he is about to fulfill the dream of every young Kerry boy, wearing the green and gold in an All Ireland final. And a whole new challenge awaits him and his team mates. The Donegal defensive fortress lies in wait. Jim McGuinness will have the Killarney sharpshooter high on his priority list and he will be watched like a hawk. Irrespective of whatever happens in this mouth watering final James will be remembered and spoken about for the manner in which he lit up our summer and now with the return of Kieran Donaghy the young Legion mans  predatory instincts near goal has strengthened even further.


And finally I leave the last word to the most amazing, extraordinary and inspirational young lady I have ever had the privilege to meet in my entire life. Joanne o Riordan from Millstreet is one of only nine currently living people in the world with a condition called Tetra-amelia Syndrome, meaning she has no limbs but her life has been full of travel and positivity. She was invited to meet the Kerry team following the drawn Mayo game. I interviewed her in Killarney recently and of James o Donoghue you said. "I am a huge admirer of him and the thing about him and I say this from a female perspective, he has got this swag on the field just like Messi, he can turn it on in the space of seconds and he knows he is good looking and I have seen him winking at the cameras and things. So he has the swag and can turn it on, there could be six players around him and he can break through in an instant. I love watching him in action". Lovely words from a beautiful person.  That swag Joanne speaks about will be tried and tested to the very limit next Sunday in Croke Park. We wish all involved best wishes.

Killarney Forwards
Killarney town may be world renowned for its beauty of mountains and lakes but it has never been short of top class forwards, men who have helped Kerry win many of their All Irelands, in all grades.  One hundreds year ago this year as the Great war began Dick Fitzgerald was kicking point s from all angles as he led Kerry to victory, the top scorer that year of 1914 in the championship.

Marksmen Paul Russell and Timmy o Leary were born in Mangerton View  just off College St and both went on to help the Kingdom to win All Irelands. The present Kerry forward Jonathan Lyne's point kicking against Mayo in the re-played semi –final should come as no great surprise as both his grand uncles Jackie and Fr Mikey Lyne won All Ireland's at corner forward. Jackie had the distinction of winning medals both as a defender (1946) and at corner forward (1953) while James o Donoghue father Diarmuid was Kerry's top scorer in their 1984 League win

Johnny Culloty was in the corner for the 1955 win over Dublin and the man dubbed The Prince of Forwards Tadghie Lyne born on the side of High St was the top scorer for Kerry that very same year. In 2005 Colm Cooper and Eoin Brosnan amassed 6-34 between them, but Kerry lost the final to Tyrone. The o Sullivan brothers from Ballycasheen Gerald and Teddy were regular starters up front in the forties and fifties and Donal Kavanagh from the Muckross Road led the Kerry attack in the early seventies.

Mick Gleeson and Mike McAuliffe from the Spa club while not out and out townies were also prolific scorers for The Kingdom. But the man who tops them all from Beauties Home is of course Colm Cooper who between championship and league appearances has registered the phenomenal total of 31gls-406 pts, a total that may never be equaled but hopefully will be improved on by Colm himself in the coming years.

Its going to be the mother of all battles, Donegal will go in as favourites which will suit Kerry. I have stayed with Eamon Fitzmaurice all year and given every vote to his men. If it was Dublin in the final I was going to go for them but I believe we can beat this great Donegal side. Eamon will have learned so much from Dublins defeat and he and his side line generals will have burned the mid night oil trawling through the DVD of their game. Dublins failings can be Kerry's strengths. The pros and cons of the various lines of the field will be well discussed elsewhere in this supplement.

The Mayo thrillers will stand greatly to Kerry. It's going to take a massive twenty man effort, but I believe the plots being hatched behind the locked gates of Fitzgerald Stadium will send us on our winning way to our 37th title. One hundred years ago a Fitzgerald (Dick) captained Kerry to victory, I expect his club man another Fitzgerald (Fionn) to mount the steps of the Hogan stand to accept the Sam Maguire.

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