Fitzmaurice stands over his tactics and considers his future
ÉAMONN Fitzmaurice will ‘reconsider’ his future in the coming weeks.
With a year still to run on his latest term, the Kerry boss was non-committal on whether he will stay on for a sixth year in the aftermath of his team’s emphatic defeat to Mayo.
While only five points separated the teams at the final whistle, the margin could not disguise the futility of the Kingdom’s chase in the second half, nor Fitzmaurice’s disappointment as he presented himself at the post-match press briefing.
‘I haven’t thought about the future to be honest. We were all so zoomed in on today, that was our only focus.
‘Any time there’s a loss we’re all going to think now and re-consider and see what the best way forward for Kerry is, and we’ll do that over the next couple of weeks,’ he said.
If that qualifies for a par for the course reply, Fitzmaurice is well versed in the Kerry way to know that the post mortem into a third titleless year will be deep and unforgiving.
He rolled the dice yesterday with three prematch changes – the boldest being the dropping of James O’Donoghue to facilitate a sweeper system to protect a fullback line which had been torched six days earlier.
It failed to work here – Mayo’s aggression forcing Kerry’s hand as they pushed up – before O’Donoghue’s arrival at the start of the second half provided the Kerry attack with some teeth.
The 2014 footballer of the year kicked three points – two from play – to provide Paul Geaney with the support the Dingle man had been crying out for.
But it was too little and, especially after Andy Moran had exacted a fierce price against a sweeperless defence with a goal within three minutes of the restart, too late. Any regrets, then? ‘I stand over what we did 100 per cent, what we were trying to do, it didn’t work today but that’s the beauty of management – we don’t have the benefit of hindsight.
‘Any day you lose a game there are aspects of your game plan that are going to malfunction and aren’t going to go according to play. I’m sure people will be wondering what the hell were we trying to do, but the days it goes well then you end up winning the game and you look like a genius.
‘And the days you lose, well, you end up looking like anything but.’
That’s the joys of management, but in these analytical times not every game is decided on a whiteboard.
Kerry might not make peace with that, but being beaten by the better team is still a solace of sorts for those at the losing coalface.
‘Mayo have been outstanding.
‘We didn’t need the last two games to confirm they are a serious outfit. They have been so close, going back to 2012 in particular, they’ve been so close every year.
‘We knew we were going to have to be on top of our game to win the game and we weren’t, so it’s no huge surprise that they beat us.
‘I think they are a great bunch, serious resilience and they are no mean footballers either.
‘They were just operating at a slightly higher level than us. I think the kick-outs in the first half were a big factor – they got on top of our kick-out and won all of their own kick-outs, so they had a lot of possession. We were playing a bit of catch up.’
It was a chase that was beyond them but their cause was not helped by the controversial black card shown to Darran O’Sullivan in the 44th minute, when it appeared that Cillian O’Connor had stepped into the Glenbeigh man’s path and engineered a body check.
‘I saw that incident and he shouldn’t have got a black card, it should have been the other way.
‘What it meant was that we were robbed of his impact and we were robbed of a substitution, that’s what it meant,’ he added.
‘But look you get these calls and you don’t get these calls, but that was definitely the wrong call,’ he reflected ruefully.
For his opposite number, Stephen Rochford it was one of those perfect days when all has calls were the right ones.
‘We wanted to trust our own game a lot, we felt there were one or two areas we could do better on, our own kick-out and
turnovers, which we handed the opportunity to Kerry to score goals last week. So a lot of the focus was on ourselves this week really. ‘We did well enough to win an All-Ireland semifinal. We knew that Kerry were going to come at us really hard. We knew we would have to match that and do better. I thought we did that. ‘It was really important that we didn’t allow Kerry to get their fast start that they had got in previous Championship games. That allowed us take a hold of the game,’ he said.
CLASH: Kieran Donaghy and Aidan O’Shea get in a tangle
CATCH UP: Kerry manager Éamonn Fitzmaurice