Update 9.30pm: Éamonn Fitzmaurice, announcing his resignation as Kerry football manager, believes he was a “lightning rod” for the criticism and negativity which stalked his team in recent weeks and months.
Calling time on his six-year tenure as Kerry football manager, which included six Munster championships and All-Ireland success in 2014, Fitzmaurice is hopeful that by stepping away, it will lessen the over-the-top criticism which his players have been subjected to throughout 2018.
Fitzmaurice claimed his players were getting grief off the Kerry public outside of match-days and that he had “a box full of anonymous letters”.
He called for his replacement to be afforded real patience.
“It is time for me to move on,” Fitzmaurice began.
“I have been in the job for six years. I’ve given it everything I have. I think there are very good foundations there for the future.
“When you are preaching patience about a young group, we didn’t carry that through as a county at all this summer. I think, part of that, was down to the fact that I was there for so long and that, maybe, I was a lightning rod for that negativity and criticism, which, if you are 19 as David [Clifford] is or Sean [O'Shea] that is 20, the other lads Gavin White is 21, Jason Foley is 21, that is not a nice environment to try and develop yourself.
"It is great when we are in here in Fitzgerald Stadium together, but there is a lot of time when they are out in their own communities and out in the general public and they are hearing stuff.
“As a county, we have probably hung our hat too much on the minor success, which has been outstanding, but winning minor All-Irelands and winning senior All-Irelands are a very different thing. And it takes time.”
On the criticism he received and that which was directed at his players, Fitzmaurice elaborated: “You can take criticism, but over-the-top criticism, I get a lot of the info second and third-hand because I stay out of it, you have enough to be doing when the games are coming thick and fast.
“But I think if you are being patient, there shouldn’t be over-the-top criticism when you have a young team. There has to be a realisation within the county that we need to give the [younger players] a bit of space and a bit of time. And, maybe, try the positive stance and see how that works, getting behind the team when you have a bad performance.
“If things are going against the next man, there will be question marks but it'll be more muted. It gets louder the longer you stay and I don't like the way that was affecting the group.
“If you're a supporter, you back the team through thick and thin but I don't want to go down that road of 'poor me' because that's not the way it is. It doesn't bother me at all. It comes with this position and if you're going to be precious on that forget about it.
"You know that coming into it, I knew that. I've thicker skin than that but I don't like it when it's happening to players, that's a different scenario. Does it make it right that it comes with the territory? I don't know but that's a different debate. When it's happening to players I don't think it's very nice.”
The departing Kerry boss didn’t believe players had grown tired of his voice in the dressing room and he also admitted he was going to step down at the end of this season, irrespective of when Kerry’s campaign finished up. After their 2017 season concluded at the All-Ireland semi-final hurdle, Fitzmaurice was handed a three-year term to bring him through to 2020.
“A three-year term is great but everything is always assessed and analysed and reviewed on a yearly basis. I don't sign any contract, I'm not paid any money. A three-year term is a verbal commitment really and it's reviewed every year anyway.
"You sit down at the end of the year and look back. I'd have always asked myself, 'Can I give it more? Can I make a difference? Can I improve it?' I think I'm at the point now where the group will benefit from a new voice and a bit of space.
"It's grand me asking for space on the bank holiday weekend in August. If the new man loses three games next March, will everyone be down his throat again? I'd hope not.
"A new person coming in with different messages, different demands, having to prove yourself all over again, that can lift the thing that small bit further. We are very close. There are good foundations there.
"All those young players are going to benefit hugely from the exposure to these Super 8 games against Division 1 teams. They are going to be in a great position next February facing into the league and facing into next year’s championship. That is all positive and that gives you energy.
"I felt it was time."
Eamonn Fitzmaurice has stepped down as Kerry Football Manager following their All-Ireland Football Championship exit this evening.
The Kingdom were knocked out despite defeating Kildare by 3-25 to 2-16 tonight.
That win was not enough for Kerry to progress as Monaghan beat Galway to claim the top two spots in Group 1.
After 6 years in charge, Fitzmaurice says it is time to step aside.
With heavy heart we announce that our Manager Éamonn Fitzmaurice has stepped down. We cannot thank @efitz6 enough for all he has done for Kerry GAA. He is a gentleman to the core and has given everything for the cause. We wish Éamonn and his family all the best— Kerry GAA (@Kerry_Official) August 4, 2018
He said: "I step down, I've been six years in the job which is a long time. It will freshen things up.
"There is a lot of young talent, there are good foundations there. I think you always look to try and improve the thing and pass it onto the next person in a better place.
- Digital Desk