GAA Football

John Joe O'Shea: Donegal may be next up for Kerry but the target is 'stop the Dublin five'

Donegal GAA’s best known Kerry man, John Joe OShea, believes that his adopted county’s “greater need” might just see them through to victory over the Kingdom in Croke Park on Sunday.

But, being a Kerry man, there is a caveat, in that he believes that the county of his dark fathers can take a defeat with the expectation that they can go on and beat Meath in the final match and still make the semi-finals.

And being a Kerry man also, he is not averse to throwing in a bit of a diversion.

“But down in Kerry, the supporters are only thinking of one thing,'' he stated,

“They are not too concerned about winning Sam this year, but they are more concerned with the fact that Dublin don’t do “five-in-a-row.”

John Joe, from the lovely town of Kenmare, has never lost the syrupy brogue of his native heath, knows his football and has made a huge mark on the game in Donegal.

More crucially, he is never afraid to say what he thinks, and the eloquent and erudite John Joe speaks with some authority.

For, this is the man who managed Tir Conaill Vocational Schools to four All-Ireland titles in 1994, 1995, 2001 and 2011.

And John Joe O’Shea has coached Damian Diver, Brian McLaughlin, Eamon McGee, Neil McGee, Paul Durcan and Karl Lacey, Paddy McBrearty, Ryan McHugh, Hugh McFadden and Eoghan Ban Gallagher at various times.

John Joe O’Shea was a neighbour of the great Mickey Ned O’Sullivan who captained his town to a Kingdom championship in 1974.

Mickey Ned went one better with Kerry a year later in years when the young John Joe was in teacher training in Cork.

“I was a neighbour of the Spillanes from Templenoe and I was the same age as Pat who never left a ball out of his hand,” he said.

John Joe came to teach in Killybegs Vocational School in 1976 and the young Kerry man was stunned at the fishing boats and the amount of fish caught every day.

Now, 43 years, on he is still teaching in this famous school that produced such stellar figures as Jimmy White, the Cunningham’s, Barry McGowan, the Carbery’s, Manus Baker, Mark and Declan Boyle, Peter McGinley, John Ban Gallagher, Hugh McFadden and Eoghan Ban Gallagher to name but a few luminaries.

Last Sunday he did not go to Ballybofey as he wanted to see both Kerry and Donegal on the box.

When asked for his thoughts on Donegal’s eventual comprehensive win over Meath, he said: “I did not go as I was not going to miss Kerry and Mayo, so I sat in front of the TV for both matches.

“For Donegal it was a case of getting the job done and they are in a better position going into Sunday’s game against Kerry.

“For, the expectation will not be near as great on them.

“There was a lot of focus put on them as being challengers to Dublin and now all of a sudden, as a result of last weekend the focus has switched to Kerry.

“So from that point of view Declan Bonner will be delighted.”

He added: “He has things to work on and Kerry are not going to be that naïve that they will set up to allow Donegal to play their counter attacking game.

“So he is going to have to find a balance between that and not conceding the middle third of the pitch to Kerry.

“Last Sunday Kerry dominated Mayo in that middle third so Donegal will need to match them in that area and Michael Murphy, Hugh McFadden, Jason McGee and Michael Langan are equipped to do that.

“But, at the same time Declan Bonner cannot afford to go man on man on the likes of David Clifford, so it is a hard balancing act which will have a big bearing on the game.”

So, are Donegal capable of beating Kerry?

“Oh, very much so and I have no doubt about that,' he stated firmly.

“I spent 10 days down in Kerry and the supporters were saying they would be content if they could get a victory against Mayo.

“They were conceding the fact that they were going to find it difficult to beat Donegal in Croke Park.

“And they were resigned to the fact that they might not be good enough, but obviously that has changed since last weekend.

“But down in Kerry, the supporters are only thinking of one thing.

“They are not too concerned about winning Sam this year, but they are more concerned with the fact that Dublin don’t do “five-in-a-row.”

He added:

“I suppose Kerry are beginning to stick out the chest a bit after last Sunday.

“Realistically there are four teams, Dublin, Donegal, Kerry and Tyrone look to be the ones who will progress to the semi-finals.

“Next Sunday’s game between Donegal and Kerry is crucial.

“I think Kerry have a foot in one of the two spots with the scoring difference, but Donegal know that not winning next weekend means having to go to Castlebar to take on a wounded Mayo which will be no easy task.

“Also, which is rather surprising, your two All-Ireland semi-finals are coming up just seven days after the third and final game in the Super 8’s.

“The last thing any team wants is to have a battle on their hands and then have to go into the All-Ireland semi-final on the following weekend”.

So, was it Kerry “cuteness” that played so many violins of sympathy ahead of that big defeat of Mayo?

“There might have been a wee bit of shuffling, but I think that both Donegal and Kerry are in a very similar situation.

“Donegal knocked Tyrone off their pedestal and then Kerry went up against Mayo in a similar underdog situation.

“They brushed over Mayo, but the jury is still out on who the real Kerry and Donegal are.

“That question won’t be settled until next Sunday.

“I don’t think there was a lot of cuteness in Kerry’s stance as they have come through the NFL pretty well, but Kerry had oxygen going into the Mayo game.

“But Donegal had similar oxygen going into the Tyrone game, that they should have beaten them in the Super 8’s last year.”

So can Donegal go all the way and take Sam Maguire back to the Hills?

“The route to an All-Ireland title is to get Dublin in the final.

“If they are beatable anywhere it is in a final and that is assuming that they get there.

“Anything can happen in a final and Donegal, no more than Kerry they are in with that chance”.

And then the hard question, who would the Kenmare and Kerry man like to see winning on Sunday?

“That is always hard to answer, in fairness Kerry stole one in 2014 and at that stage I had my Kerry hat on.

“I will have no bother this weekend in Donegal winning and getting a bit of revenge, happy in the knowledge that it is not knock out and we (Kerry John Joe!) are still there.

“So, who is going to win, I think Donegal’s need is a bit greater.

“Donegal, Kerry, Tyrone and Mayo, on any given day, they can beat each other.

“Kerry had the greater need against Mayo, and Donegal had it against Tyrone.

“Donegal don’t want to be going to Castlebar needing a result while Kerry can carry a defeat on Sunday and still go into the Meath game expecting to win it.

“And it could come down to score difference.

“Donegal’s need is greater, but it is going to be a hell of a contest”.





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