Eamonn Fitzmaurice will be the new coach to the Kerry footballers.
GAA chiefs in the Kingdom are closing in on their preferred candidate to replace Jack O’Connor after productive meetings with the Finuge man this week.
Fitzmaurice (35) was initially cool on the idea, but Board chairman Patrick O’Sullivan is now confident he has agreement in principle from the coach to take the reins in 2013. Ultimately, it has proved too big a chance to turn down for the Dingle-based schoolteacher.
It will mean Fitzmaurice relinquishing his position as Kerry Under-21 coach after only one season, with either Darragh Ó Sé or Harry O’Neill, U21 selectors this year, favourites to take over as coach.
Mr O’Sullivan met again with Fitzmaurice yesterday and will now accelerate discussions with his special management sub-committee in order to bring a recommendation to the full Board at the earliest opportunity.
The chairman is hoping to have a decision from Fitzmaurice, a three-time All-Ireland medal winner, over the weekend.
Though Fitzmaurice accepts that the post he covets has arisen earlier than he would have liked or imagined, it is too good an opportunity and too exciting a challenge to let slip. As one source said last night:
“Who’s to say what the landscape will be like in a couple of years? The Kerry job may not be up for grabs at that stage.”
The Finuge man will begin the process next week of putting together his management team, including a physical coach. However one man who won’t be in the frame is Pat Flanagan, the ex-Kerry coach, who has already committed to the Waterford hurlers for a second season in 2013. It is unlikely that Fitzmaurice will want to disrupt the remaining Under-21 selectors and will be keen to leave Darragh Ó Sé, Harry O’Neill, John Shanahan and physical coach John O’Sullivan in situ.
The new coach will also have some tough decisions to make on the futures of some of the Kerry players he soldiered with as a player. Fitzmaurice’s appointment may influence the retirement plans of the likes of Aidan O’Mahony, Tomas Ó Sé and Eoin Brosnan, plus Paul Galvin, his brother-in-law.
Fitzmaurice would be liked and respected, but acknowledges he will have to make some tough calls after Christmas.
Despite the near miss of 2011, Kerry only have one All-Ireland and one National League title to their credit since 2007, with many predicting a fallow period in the short to medium term.
Some of the U21s Fitzmaurice groomed may get their opportunity next season, such as Firies’ Jack Sherwood, James Walsh of Knocknagoshel and Kenmare’s Steven O’Brien.
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