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'He started in 2001. Some of the group we have at the moment were barely born then'

Austin Stacks young captain Dylan Casey on the influence of Kieran Donaghy ahead of Sunday’s Munster club decider.

Kieran Donaghy celebrates last December's Kerry county final success.
Kieran Donaghy celebrates last December's Kerry county final success.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

Updated Jan 13th 2022, 5:02 PM

IN HIS TRIUMPHANT acceptance speech after last December’s Kerry county senior football final, Austin Stacks captain Dylan Casey shared out the plaudits to plenty in the club connected with the win.

But he reserved a specific mention for Kieran Donaghy, the veteran who continues to endure for their club cause despite an array of other commitments.

On the cusp of his 39th birthday, Donaghy’s influence remains pronounced in the Austin Stacks dressing-room as they gear up for Sunday’s Munster final.

“Kieran Donaghy speaks for himself,” says Casey.

“The leadership skills that he brings to the dressing room, 20 years of experience. He was saying there before the county final that he started in 2001. Some of the group we have at the moment were barely born then.

“He’s been through all the experiences, the situations. I think it was Wayne (Quillinan, Austin Stacks manager) at the beginning of the year that tempted him back in with the split season.

“He’s been an integral part of the Stacks set up for many years. He’s crucial to what we’ve achieved this year. He drives us on, and brings leadership skills that no one else in the county has.”

aib-munster-gaa-football-senior-club-final-media-day Austin Stacks captain Dylan Casey. Source: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

Donaghy’s presence in attack is an education on the training ground for Casey as he sharpens his defensive skills.

“I’d have the challenge of marking him for a lot of sessions when I am full-back, between myself and Barry Shanahan. You’d learn the bits that he’s learnt over the last few years, how to move around and make the most of his presence.

“He’s always given me notes, things that he would have found difficult being marked by the top defenders in the country, little snippets of what made them good, and what I could improve in my own game. It’s important that I do take that on board.”

Casey’s own profile has grown over the last couple of years. A Munster U20 winner with Kerry in 2020, the leader in different ways as Austin Stacks succeeded last year.

Recruitment was predictable when Jack O’Connor returned to the Kerry senior hotseat. Making his mark there is ‘a goal of mine’, according to Casey but his immediate focus is on the club scene.

When Austin Stacks last successfully journeyed through Munster in late 2014, Casey was a young fan who was swept up in the excitement of that time.

“The clearest memories of being a Stacks supporter are 2014. It wasn’t only a journey for the players, but for the fans. I remember Ballincollig here in Tralee, there was a massive parade, and a get together between the Stacks and Ballincollig supporters. There are videos of that online.

“Then, there was the march to old Páirc Uí Chaoimh against The Nire in the Munster final. Then, going to Portlaoise against Slaughtneil, I would have been involved in all the parades with the supporters. At that time, I was looking at my heroes playing for the club in an All-Ireland semi-final. They are great memories.”

His first appearance as a player in Munster isn’t recalled as fondly. Austin Stacks were the Kerry representatives due to their club championship success in 2019 and were handed an 18-point beating by Nemo Rangers.

“It is something that has been lingering over us, the same group of players, same management since that Nemo game,” admits Casey.

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“We want to put that right, in the right fashion, make sure we were there on merit and won the county championship here in Kerry before we ever made the next phase. That was mentioned against Newcastle West. I was saying it prior to the game that it is important to take the emotions into the game we felt at the same stage three or four years ago, the upset in the dressing room afterward. Thankfully we got over that phase.”

They are now chasing an All-Ireland semi-final berth. Casey has parked other duties this week, not involved with UCC in last night’s Sigerson Cup action due to his loyalty to Austin Stacks.

His defensive capabilities, which surfaced throughout the Kerry championship against a variety of lethal attackers, will be required on Sunday against Cork champions St Finabrr’s.

“Sean O’Shea and David Clifford are two of the big names, not only in Kerry football, but in national football. It was a massive challenge for me. and something that I was eager to see where I was at. They are the benchmark, the best calibre of footballers this country has to offer. It was important for me to prepare the best that I could and see where I was at, and what I can work on over the coming months.”

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