Head to head: Kieran Donaghy v David Heaney
12 September 2006
After watching Kerrys All-Ireland semi-final victory over Cork, the great Mick ODwyer claimed that Kieran Donaghy is “unmarkable”. If this is true, David Heaney faces a truly daunting task in the All-Ireland final. The Mayo full back has admitted that it wont be easy to curtail the man who has turned Kerrys season around. But privately, he will relish the challenge of marking the hottest property in football right now.
Donaghy has illuminated the 2006 championship like no-one else. He is already a shoe-in for an All-Star and looks set to take the Player of the Year award as well. And to think that his switch from midfield to full forward most likely wouldnt have happened if Kerry had beaten Cork in the Munster final!
The 23-year-old only made his championship debut against Waterford last May, and was suspended for the Munster final replay after being controversially sent off in the drawn match. His suspended served, Kerry manager Jack OConnor decided to try him at full forward in the qualifier match against Longford, and the results have been nothing short of astounding.
With the former Tralee Tigers basketball star providing a focal point to their attack, the Kingdom have been totally rejuvenated. Aside from his imposing 64 frame and the problems this poses for defenders, its Donaghys work-rate, vision, ball-handling skills and ability to create chances for others that have given Kerry a new edge going forward.
Star demolished Longford to get Kerrys season back on track, and another fine display against Armagh in the All-Ireland quarter-final was crowned with a brilliant second half goal. He was also highly influential in the win over Cork which qualified Kerry for their third All-Ireland final in as many years.
Heaney is an experienced campaigner who lined out at midfield when Mayo lost the 1997 final to the Kingdom. The Mayo captain was converted into a full back a couple of years ago and will be hoping to make amends for the 2004 final when Kerrys tactic of delivering high ball into target man Johnny Crowley caught him and the rest of the Mayo full back line completely by surprise
Despite that traumatic experience, Heaney is regarded as an excellent fielder and could do well against Donaghy in that regard. He was very solid against Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final and, despite clearly struggling with an injury, executed a vital tackle on Jason Sherlock in the dying moments. He will push forward if the opportunity presents itself, and has scored from the full back position in the past.
Donaghy is undoubtedly Kerrys most important player and the Mayo management will have spent a great deal of time trying to come up with a plan to stop him. They could attempt to cut off the supply, but thats easier said than done. If Heaney can somehow contain the Kerry dangerman, then Mayo will stand a great chance of winning their first All-Ireland in 55 years. The Swinford man cannot allow Donaghy to win clean possession, otherwise his team will suffer the same fate as Longford, Armagh and Cork.