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'He’s probably the toughest guy I’ve marked. Hopefully it’s not the last we see of him'

Kerry captain Paul Murphy pays tribute to James O’Donoghue who has stepped away from the Kerry panel.

James O'Donoghue after Kerry's All-Ireland victory in 2014.
James O'Donoghue after Kerry's All-Ireland victory in 2014.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

KERRY CAPTAIN PAUL Murphy says he hopes that 2014 Footballer of the Year James O’Donoghue will return to the Kingdom squad at some point in the future.

Doubts have been cast over O’Donoghue’s inter-county future after he stepped away from the set-up last month to return to his club Killarney Legion.

The star forward, who has been plagued by injuries in recent years, has not been part of any Kerry matchday 26 so far this season and his last inter-county game dates back to a league meeting against Galway in 2020.

Murphy and O’Donoghue were key members of the Kerry side that captured the Sam Maguire in 2014, and the Rathmore defender hopes his old team-mate will wear the Kerry jersey again.

“I’d be very friendly with James, I played with him a lot over the last number of years. I was probably thinking about it over the last week or so, and I’d say he’s probably the toughest guy I’ve marked – be it in Kerry training or in club games between Rathmore and Legion.

“Just so strong and fast, so comfortable on both sides. He could line you up whichever direction, take you on, and would leave you for dust plenty of times. He has been a brilliant servant for Kerry and it was a privilege to play with him, hopefully it’s not the last we see of him. He has been just so so unfortunate with injuries in the last number of years, you’d really sympathise with him, he hasn’t just got a break at all.

“He’s back now playing with Legion, playing a few county league games and scoring a bit, so hopefully he gets an injury-free run and a bit of football under his belt, and who knows what happens from there.”

Murphy can appreciate how injuries can cause complications for an inter-county player. Normally a starter for Kerry, Murphy was resigned to a substitute appearance in their Munster semi-final win over Tipperary and was originally not named to start the final against Cork.

gaa-all-ireland-senior-football-championship-launch Kerry captain Paul Murphy. Source: Eóin Noonan/SPORTSFILE

However, he was swapped in ahead of the throw-in and played the full 70 minutes before walking up the steps in Fitzgerald Stadium to lift the cup for his county.

Diarmuid O’Connor and Dara Moynihan are two other central players on the Kerry panel who are coping with injuries at the moment. Murphy reports that they are both doing “individual rehab” at the moment and is unsure if either of them will be available for the All-Ireland semi-final against Tyrone.

Murphy, who picked up a “niggle” earlier this year, is returning to full fitness at a crucial time for Peter Keane’s side.

“Yeah, delighted to have started the Munster final. And really happy to have come in off the bench against Tipp. I had a small bit of a niggle towards the end of the league there and once that cleared up, I was just focusing on trying to get back in.

“But as captain, it’s a great sign. And I’m delighted to see young lads coming into the panel starting games and driving things on when they get in there.

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“Everyone would like to play. Everyone would like to play for the Kerry team, but only 15 can start on any one day.

“That’s just the nature of it. Starting team, subs, management, fans – everyone is just driving on in the same direction, pulling in the same direction.”

Paul Murphy was speaking at the launch of the All-Ireland senior football championship.

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