Kick 'em in the head

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:48 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- Wally Buono was holding out. He said he wouldn't make the decision on his kicker until today.

Duncan O'Mahony was going along with it.

"I don't know what Wally is going to do," said the hoofer who suffered the same fate as Sean Fleming back in mid-season with the Eskimos, Buono bringing his old Calgary kicker Mark McLoughlin out of retirement to replace him for the rest of the year.

Then I hit O'Mahony with the quote from Fleming back home.

'IT'S IMPOSSIBLE'

"It's impossible," Fleming said of McLoughlin being ready to kick in Sunday's West final with a hamstring injury, having not swung his leg toward a football until here yesterday when he half-kicked them 20 yards or so crossways in the end zone.

"I don't see him kicking at all," said Fleming. "There's is no way. With his age I can't see them risking a spot on the roster to find out he goes out for one kick and then, boom, now you are short a guy."

O'Mahony cracked.

"I don't see him playing either. It's one thing if you're 29 years old and have a hamstring. He's 40. I'm 29 and I notice little things happening to my body which didn't happen before. I can't see him dressing and using up a roster spot. No, I don't see Mark kicking."

So the news today is going to be that the B.C. Lions are going to go into the big game with a kicker who hasn't kicked in more than a month and was a disaster when he did. And he'll be going against been-there, done-that mid-season mess that was Fleming who came back to hit 18 of his last 21 including six-for-six in the West semi.

If nothing else, Fleming is inspiration for the Lions kicker who went 0-3 Oct. 10 against Saskatchewan, costing the Lions a game and himself his job.

"Sean is a pro. He went through it and he managed to move on. Hopefully I'm about to come back and be over it, too."

McLoughlin, who had played in 11 previous Western finals, hurt his hamstring on a kickoff after Bret Anderson, who had previously taken over those duties from O'Mahony, hurt his ribs on the previous kickoff in the Lions last regular-season game.

McLoughlin holds the CFL playoff record for most field goals with 52. Fleming, with six last Sunday, now has 41.

O'Mahony says he's just happy to have the chance to attempt another one, period.

"I've been in this game before. I've made kicks before," he said.

He was 33-for-45 making field goals for the Lions last year. He went two-for-two in last year's Western final, kicking them from 40 and 48 yards while Saskatchewan's Paul McCallum missed from 18-yards on the last play of the game as B.C. went to the Grey Cup with a 27-25 win. He was also two-for-two in the Grey Cup from 36 and 42 yards.

O'Mahony says he thinks he's benefited from his time in exile.

"The time off in the last five or six weeks has been great for me. It's given me time to rest mentally, not so much to regroup as to refocus. I feel like I'm kicking again now like I was last year."

Buono, asked if he ended up deciding to go with O'Mahony, said the kicker born in Kilkenny, Ireland looks to be back in form.

"I know I have a lot of confidence in Duncan. Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom to climb up."

BOUNCES BACK LIKE FLEMING?

Maybe he bounces back like Fleming. Maybe he doesn't.

"I can't remember a season like this for kickers," said Lui Passaglia, the greatest of the greats in the CFL who played 25 years in the league and now is director of community relations for the Lions.

"If you were a kid coming along this would have been the year. Of all the years, this is the one which would have offered the most opportunity for a young kicker to get an opportunity to show his stuff.

"I've spent the season watching Sean in Edmonton. He really struggled, then all of a sudden, bang, you could see he had his confidence again. Now you can see the confidence and as soon as he hits the ball, you know he's made it."

Advantage: Eskimos.

But who knows. They're kickers. And this definitely hasn't been the year of the kicker in the CFL.


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