By Tony Leen, Croke Park
For someone as forensic in his analysis of a game, Eamonn Fitzmaurice may take some time to reach a conclusion that gives him clarity - if not a whole lot of comfort - on how Kerry malfunctioned in their All-Ireland semi final replay defeat to Mayo.
Not that the Kerry manager was reaching for excuses after today’s 2-16 to 0-17 loss. “Mayo were better and hungrier,” he accepted, “they just performed better than we did.”
The reasons for that may take Kerry folk well through the autumn. “I don’t think the gameplan worked as well as we had hoped,” he conceded.
“But again you’d have to give Mayo credit for that, they were operating at a slightly higher level than us. We didn’t need the last two games to confirm they are a serious outfit, they’ve been so close going back to 2012. Mayo have serious resilience, they are a great bunch, and they’re no mean footballers either.”
Kerry started without James O’Donoghue up front and reshuffled their defence, leaving out Mark Griffin and bringing in Jonathan Lyne and debutant Tom O’Sullivan from Dingle to accommodate a sweeper system.
“The first half kickouts,” explained Fitzmaurice, “was a factor (in our problems), Mayo got on top of ours, won all their own – so they had a lot of possession, and we were playing catch up.
“Any day you lose there are aspects of the gameplan that aren’t going according to plan. I’m sure people were wondering what the hell we were trying to do, but the days it goes well then, you end up winning the game and you are a genius.”
Fitzmaurice spoke of Mayo’s hunger. Did they just want that final berth more than Kerry?
“They have ferocious appetite because of the disappointments they’ve had over the last couple of years, how close they’ve got. Now we’ve experienced similar disappointments, including last year in the semi-final.
"But when they’ve been so close, they edged us in those stakes (hunger) and that’s not something you can predict, or plan for.”