‘I think it’ll be like the league in a lot of ways’ says man­ager

The Kerryman (Tralee Edition) - - SPORT - BY JA­SON O’CON­NOR

NEARLY two years of dis­cus­sion and in­trigue come to an end this week­end with the begin­ning of the Su­per 8s and the re­vamped All-Ire­land quar­ter-fi­nal stage.

Éa­monn Fitz­mau­rice spoke of his ex­cite­ment and an­tic­i­pa­tion about how it might all pan out when he met the me­dia last Fri­day ahead of the trip to Croke Park to face Gal­way in their first en­counter of the three game Round Robin se­ries.

“I think the games will be very even and the fact there is three dif­fer­ent venues for the games will make it all the more ex­cit­ing and a bit ro­man­tic. I think the cham­pi­onship needed fresh­en­ing up and for us July was al­ways a dif­fi­cult month after win­ning a Mun­ster Cham­pi­onship when we had no games and didn’t know who we would be play­ing,” the Kerry man­ager said.

With the pro­vin­cial win­ners get­ting home ad­van­tage last it has led to some dis­cus­sion about whether it takes the value away from win­ning a pro­vin­cial Cham­pi­onship when they might be out of con­tention come the third game. Fitz­mau­rice isn’t too wor­ried about it in ad­vance, how­ever.

“I think in a sit­u­a­tion where you are fight­ing to make the semi-fi­nals in your last game then home ad­van­tage is a mas­sive thing to have. It’s re­ally up to you to make that home game rel­e­vant and for us it will be the lat­est we have played at home since the qual­i­fier with Ty­rone back in July in 2012.

“I agree that the for­mat isn’t per­fect es­pe­cially when there is a loop­hole about Croke Park be­ing both a neu­tral and home venue, but I think when Padraic Duffy [then GAA Direc­tor Gen­eral] spoke about it two years ago he did say that th­ese would be some of the tweaks that would be even­tu­ally need to be ad­dressed,” he said.

The Kerry boss feels that the year has been rel­a­tively nor­mal com­pared to other ones with the preparations for the Mun­ster Cham­pi­onships but wel­comes the fact that train­ing is now be­ing tai­lored for more games than an uncertain wait like other years.

“We view tai­lor­ing train­ing for matches as a pos­i­tive not a neg­a­tive. Joe O’Con­nor and

Niall O’Ma­hony are work­ing with the play­ers on that front. We watched the Round Robin in the Hurl­ing Cham­pi­onship more for the ef­fect the amount of matches had on the play­ers as the weeks went on as we will be fac­ing some­thing sim­i­lar now,” he said.

Some ex­pe­ri­ence of the for­mat can be found right in the King­dom it­self with the Club Cham­pi­onships in April run­ning off in the same way as the Su­per

8s. Whether or not it gets to be as dra­matic as the Premier

Ju­nior Group which saw a semi-fi­nal spot be­tween Churchill and Skel­lig Rangers de­cided by the last kick of the game in the

St Bren­dans side’s favour in a game against Listry is hard to know, but Fitz­mau­rice has a sim­ple tar­get for the group.

“You want to try and take max­i­mum points by win­ning your three games and take all the per­mu­ta­tions out of it. If you do find your­self level in the ta­ble with a side then it goes to headto-head so it vi­tal to make sure you have that game won be­fore any other per­mu­ta­tion might come in.

“I think it will be like the league in a lot of ways in teams tak­ing points off each other, which will make it very com­pet­i­tive.”

Kerry’s last game in the old quar­ter-fi­nal for­mat was against Gal­way so it’s in­ter­est­ing that their first game in the new one is against the Tribes­men as well. Fitz­mau­rice be­lieves that the Con­nacht Cham­pi­ons be­ing a Divi­sion 1 side like the King­dom will make them their tough­est test yet.

“I thought Gal­way were in a good place last year only they just didn’t per­form against us on the day in Croke Park. They didn’t lose a game in the league bar the fi­nal it­self and they have a strong squad now and are well em­bed­ded un­der Kevin Walsh.

“They can play in a va­ri­ety of dif­fer­ent ways and I think de­spite their meth­ods be­ing ques­tioned they are still suc­cess­ful in what they are do­ing. You need a va­ri­ety in how you play if you want to suc­ceed.”

The sub­ject of pun­ditry around Gal­way led Fitz­mau­rice to ex­press his view that a lot of the com­men­tary on the game it­self is a bit too ‘black and white’ at the mo­ment.

“I just feel it’s too knee-jerk, but the na­ture of pun­ditry it­self is that in a crowded mar­ket you have to make your voice heard. A lot of it is hys­ter­i­cal and when you win it doesn’t mean ev­ery­thing is right or when you lose that ev­ery­thing is wrong.

“Re­sults cre­ate an en­ergy one way or an­other amongst peo­ple but our job is to keep the play­ers in the mid­dle of the course we want to steer them onto,” the Kerry boss said.

In a sim­i­lar vein, Fitz­mau­rice be­lieves re­ac­tion to the three year plan in­tro­duced by the County Board for player de­vel­op­ment has been mis­un­der­stood.

“That ini­tia­tive is a wider thing than the se­nior team. This is some­thing the County Board are do­ing at all lev­els of Kerry foot­ball from de­vel­op­ment squad upwards and I don’t think peo­ple ap­pre­ci­ate the work the County Board do in the back­ground to make it work.

“The only time you hear about this is when some­thing goes wrong and peo­ple are look­ing for some­one to blame, but in terms of our­selves as a se­nior set-up we’ve never hid­den away from fact we are a work in progress and have plenty to work on,” the Fin­uge club­man said.

When asked about the Croke Park fac­tor for the new re­cruits on Sun­day, Fitz­mau­rice says their per­for­mances will only be a part of the story

“We’re still very pa­tient with the new lads and while they are only burst­ing to get on there in Croke Park, how they do against Gal­way is still only a small part of their over­all de­velop

ment.”

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