Fitz­mau­rice says Kerry must stop con­ced­ing goal chances

De­spite giv­ing Gal­way too many chances, King­dom won in sec­ond gear

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Gaelic Games Championship 2017 - Malachy Clerkin at Croke Park

Apocryphal or not, the old Kerry press-night s t aple of put-me-down-for-what-I-said-last-year could fea­si­bly have got a run out here. Ea­monn Fitz­mau­rice has brought his Kerry teams up the road for five All-Ire­land quar­ter-fi­nals in a row and won them all with­out ever hav­ing a mo­ment’s panic. They weren’t at full throt­tle. They never had to be. On­wards.

“Any day you win an All-Ire­land quar­ter-fi­nal by eight points and you’re still in the cham­pi­onship and go­ing into a semi-fi­nal, you have to be happy,” Fitz­mau­rice said. “There were as­pects of our per­for­mance, patches where we didn’t play well and pe­ri­ods as well when we were very sloppy. Over­all, look, it’s job done. If you had asked me this morn­ing would I have taken an eight-point win, I’d have said ab­so­lutely. It’s a case of on­wards and up­wards now, and we’ll look to im­prove over the next three weeks.”

Fine saves

Gal­way left with re­grets, hav­ing made a hash of plenty of goal chances. A bet­ter team won’t be so help­ful to Kerry’s cause in three weeks. Brian Kelly made a cou­ple of fine saves in the Kerry goal, and Fitz­mau­rice won’t want him to have to have such a good game next time out.

“Yeah, it’s some­thing to work on ob­vi­ously. It’s some­thing we have worked on and some­thing we have to do more work on. But again, with all th­ese things, you have to give credit to the op­po­si­tion. We saw what Gal­way could do last week­end. We saw what they were able to do against Mayo in the Con­nacht cham­pi­onship as well.

“We were well-warned about their at­tack­ing threat. There was a cou­ple of close ones, but there was good de­fend­ing, too, and Brian ob­vi­ously did very well in goals. I think you have to give credit to Gal­way there. They were al­ways go­ing to bring that threat. But again, plenty for us to work on.”

Kevin Walsh didn’t want to reach for the missed goals as the ex­cuse here. With­out ad­mit­ting as much, he must have known they weren’t the rea- son for Gal­way’s de­feat. Kerry won in sec­ond gear and no­body in the ground doubted that they’d have found higher ones if needed. The misses were a talk­ing point, noth­ing more.

“I will have to see them again,” Walsh said. “I didn’t have the bird’s-eye view that you had, but we cer­tainly got in there and got a few chances. Goals cre­ate mo­men­tum, and that showed against Done­gal, when we took our chances. If we got one or two of them to­day, it would have al­lowed us to ask the ques­tion to see where we were but it wasn’t to be.

Bod­ies back

“And con­ced­ing the goal so early in the first half left us on the back-foot against a team as ex­pe­ri­enced as Kerry, which is a place we did not want to be. Goals of­ten give mo­men­tum to a team and we sim­ply did not get them.

“We prob­a­bly would have liked to get bod­ies back a lit­tle bit quicker to help the full-back [against Kieran Don­aghy]. It’s a huge pitch. Some of th­ese guys don’t even know the pitch. That’s the big dif­fer­ence with the likes of Kerry and Dublin com­pared to a young Gal­way side com­ing in. At the same time, it wasn’t all about that. I think we had our own goal chances and if we’d taken one or two of them, who knows?”

Im­ma­te­rial now, of course. Gal­way’s year ends at the same point as last year, out in the quar­ter-fi­nal with­out land­ing a blow. Hard to know yet whether that rep­re­sents an im­prove­ment or not. You sus­pect not.

“Well, there’s a full stop for every team at some point, apart from the All-Ire­land cham­pi­ons,” Walsh said. “There’s al­ways go­ing to be some­one feel­ing this pain, bar the win­ners, at some point. If we look back on our sea­son, pro­mo­tion was high on our list. We achieved that. And get­ting our first win – al­beit not a Cham­pi­onship win – at Croke Park was im­por­tant as well for Gal­way peo­ple.

“So those two were achieved. We prob­a­bly would have liked to re­tain the Con­nacht ti­tle, didn’t do that, but along the way, prov­ing that it was no fluke the year be­fore, it was im­por­tant that we per­formed against Mayo as well. Com­ing into the last eight in the route we prob­a­bly didn’t want to come brought up the heavy­weight cham­pi­ons. Our goal would have been to cer­tainly try and get to the last four this year, maybe want­ing to avoid the top two along the way.”

PHO­TO­GRAPH: JAMES CROMBIE/INPHO

Kerry’s Paul Mur­phy comes un­der pres­sure from Gal­way’s Eoghan Kerin at Croke Park yes­ter­day.

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