Kerry manager Éamonn Fitzmaurice defended both his tactics and his choice of starting team in yesterday’s All-Ireland semi-final defeat, writes John Fogarty.
The Munster champions adopted a sweeper system in the first half and Fitzmaurice abided by Shane Enright marking Andy Moran up until Moran’s second-half goal before the inside back was replaced.
He maintained the sweeper decision did not show too much respect to Mayo. “I think often times a sweep is viewed completely from a negative point of view. It also gives you numbers to go the other way, in terms of attacking and getting half-backs up the field. We just didn’t have enough ball to do that,
“Today, it was predominantly in the first half in particular from a defensive point of view. As we saw during the league and the final in particular, we used it to great effect but, like I said, you have to have the ball to do that and we didn’t have enough of it.”
He further explained: “What was happening was that when we were getting pushed up in kick-outs, depending on the side it went, it was a different player dropping. Paul Murphy was predominantly the man but again you can be moving pieces around your tactics boards and meetings all you want, it’s a different kettle of fish out on the pitch.
“Particularly against the top Division 1 teams, they will ask you questions about everything you do tactically. If you do one thing, you can react to it. It’s about having the ball and we didn’t have enough ball.”
Fitzmaurice accepted the Mayo management and players “came up with” over the two days “was better” than Kerry could muster. However, he backed the team he put out. “I stand over what we did 100%, 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.”
He felt the refereeing team made a mistake in black carding substitute Darran O’Sullivan – “For a lot of the cards, especially when you are on the line they are so far away from you and you can’t make it out. But 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. But look you get these calls and you don’t get these calls, but that was definitely the wrong call.”
Fitzmaurice has one more year of his latest term to see out and said he would assess what he sees “the best way forward for Kerry is” in the coming couple of weeks. As for the thirtysomethings like Kieran Donaghy, Donnchadh Walsh and Bryan Sheehan in the panel, he says they are capable of playing on despite the considerable demands of inter-county football.
“Maybe but I don’t think we’ve had that many older fellas as we did in the last couple of years. I think all of them can play on if they want to, but it’s a huge commitment. People don’t realise, people don’t have a clue. The only people that know really are wives and girlfriends, that’s it. Parents don’t even know. It’s absolutely a massive, massive commitment and the lads will make their own minds up in their own time and they’ll deserve that much at least, to be allowed that space and decide if they have the appetite. But what those fellas put in, people don’t know, they just haven’t a clue, really.”