Jim Gavin, poor punditry and where Cork went wrong: Seven takeaways from the Éamonn Fitzmaurice interview

Jim Gavin, poor punditry and where Cork went wrong: Seven takeaways from the Éamonn Fitzmaurice interview

Saturday's Examiner Sport features the first in-depth interview in five years with now former Kerry manager Éamonn Fitzmaurice. Here are seven talking points.

One: There’s a good reason he hasn’t talked in depth since 2014.

In his six seasons in charge of Kerry, Éamonn Fitzmaurice never got the better of Jim Gavin’s Dublin in Championship. More than once, they were close. More than once ill-luck and bad refereeing decisions intervened, Fitzmaurice reckons.

But the obvious obsession with knocking the Dubs off their perch occupied so much of the Kerry manager’s thinking, that he wasn’t going to give up any ‘nuggets’ as he puts it if Gavin wasn’t doing likewise. And the Dublin manager is obsessively private when it comes to discussing their modus operandi.

Says Fitzmaurice: “You can see why. This was never about one All-Ireland for him, or one season. Maybe when he’s finished, full stop, you might get insights, but you won’t until then.

Two: Fitzmaurice’s advice to his successor Peter Keane amounts to one word. Win.

“Just win. Results are king in Kerry. Everything is easy after that. The longer you stay in this position without winning – and it’s important to underline, win the All-Ireland and it’s all good – the more everything is going to be questioned. I do hope – and I would be hopeful – that Peter will be given a bit of space.

"They will make mistakes, and so will the players, but if there’s a positive energy in the county behind them, it keeps everything driving forward.”

Three: Is he fessing up on getting some big-match decisions wrong?

Yes. Fitzmaurice’s management got a lot right too. They lived and died by form in training.

Kerry always comes first. Not who someone is, or what they’ve done, or what medals or profile they have. What is the best thing for Kerry next Sunday?

Safe to say too that David Gough ain’t his favourite referee. “The thing that would aggravate - and you have to be so careful about how you even discuss this because you don’t want it to come across as sour grapes - is repeated refereeing decisions going against you on big days. That is hard to take.”

Four: How did Gooch end up tracking Philly McMahon in that 2015 All-Ireland final?

Everyone remembers the heated discussions on the Kerry sideline that day between Fitzmaurice and his selector (and friend) Diarmuid Murphy.

It appeared to centre around the tactical madness of having talisman Colm Cooper chasing back the field after Dublin’s tearaway defender Philly McMahon. Might have been madness but it wasn’t tactical.

“Colm wasn’t supposed to go behind the halfway line. It was something that happens in a game, and in the helter-skelter nature of these things - and the fact we were under pressure - that was lost. But that was the plan, and Gooch was reminded of it in the first half by (maor foirne) Padraig Corcoran. Players react differently, they have to have the freedom to play it as they see it.”

Five: Sin a bhfuil for Fitzmaurice in terms of inter-county management

He’s still only 41 but the Lixnaw man is pretty much done with top level management. “I think that’s my lot for a few different reasons,” he says. What he liked best? Trialling and making errors with tactical innovations.

Throwing it out there, trying to tweak it. Saying ‘lads, that worked better in my head, so we’ll leave that one’. We all loved that.

Six: Cork got one key decision wrong at a time they were making progress.

Kerry had their unlucky days under Fitzmaurice but they enjoyed good fortune too, most notably in the 2015 Munster football final in Killarney against Cork. The Rebels, under Brian Cuthbert, were putting

together sustainable together. But then he was axed. Mistake, says Fitzmaurice.

If you looked at the body of work and not the individual results, there was a lot of very good signs, or so it looked to me. It looked like the Kildare result gave some people the opportunity they were looking for.

Seven: Pat’s chat and proper GAA analysis

Fitzmaurice isn’t enamoured with the level of analysis in the GAA these days. He compares Pat Spillane to Donald Trump but it’s not just his compatriot.

Maybe if there were a few more Gary Neville types about. “It has improved but overall, it’s poor. In general, punditry seems to be a race to the bottom on social media in an effort to stay current and relevant. In place of cutting-edge analysis is a controversy-first model.”

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