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'It's the only prize' - James O'Donoghue has sympathy for Mayo after All-Ireland defeats

The Kerry forward is hoping to add to the pain this weekend though.

James O'Donoghue is very focused on beating Mayo this Sunday.
James O'Donoghue is very focused on beating Mayo this Sunday.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

YOU CAN TELL it consumes him. It’s not just everything, it’s the only thing.

James O’Donoghue’s entire life revolves around a singular goal, lifting Sam Maguire on the third weekend in September.

Nothing else, not the National League, not individual All-Stars, comes close to an All-Ireland senior title for O’Donoghue.

“Yeah. I’d say [I need to win an All-Ireland to validate my career]. It’s the only prize.

“It’s not like soccer, you have the Premier League, the Champions League, whatever. It’s just the All-Ireland for Kerry, basically.”

Despite that, he feels some sympathy for the Mayo players who have come so close over recent years without getting their hands on that elusive All-Ireland title.

“I think they’ve had a few chances now. But they’ve been knocking on the door. If you keep putting yourself in with a chance, you’re going to win one.

“I’m sure Mayo’s time will come. They haven’t had the luck they’ve needed so far and hopefully they won’t have any this year. But you never know.”

The Killarney Legion forward admits that Mayo will go into Sunday’s game as favourites. However, the Kingdom are getting used to playing the role of underdogs thanks to the rise in prominence of the westerners – as well as Dublin and Donegal – over the last few years.

“I suppose we’re kind of used to being the underdogs now.

“Sometimes you look forward to it because if you’re hyped up or built up, it’s so easy to just be swiped. If you’re the underdogs, nobody is expecting anything of you, nobody’s bigging you up or anything.

“We’ll come in quietly confident. I don’t think there’s going to be much between the teams either way. I couldn’t say for definite who is going to win the game. It’ll be very close. But if we bring our A-game, we’ve a great chance.”

Colm Cooper celebrates his goal with Declan O'Sullivan and James O'Donoghue Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The 23-year old is a leading contender for player of the year this season and has flourished despite the lack of Colm Cooper to aid and abet in the Kerry attack.

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“I remember at the start of the year I was a small bit worried because I depended so much on the Gooch last year.

“It was like waiting for the Gooch to get on the ball. You wouldn’t even have to make a run. You’d kind of turn around and next thing the ball is landing in your face, you go and do something with that.

“I was a bit worried at the start of the year but you change. You adapt. I don’t think there was too much issue with that so I think everyone stepped up and altered their role a bit to make the players who have retired and the Gooch’s absence a bit less.”

Though he insists Kerry’s run this year has been down to the collective, he does single out Paul Geaney – who he played with a underage level – for helping him perform so well this season.

“I know [Paul] very well, played minor with him, he was my minor captain and played U21s with him.

“He was always really prolific when he was younger. He had a few injuries, bad hamstrings, bad back. He kind of struggled to get a bit of momentum to get into the team but he was always knocking on the door.

“He’s a pure natural player, left and right, very intelligent. He will always give you the pass if you’re in the right position. It’s nice to play with someone like that.”

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Steve O'Rourke

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