JOHN FOGARTY: ‘We got it totally wrong, on and off the field’, says Mikey Sheehy

Kerry selector Mikey Sheehy. Pic: INPHO/Bryan Keane

At yesterday’s Allianz Football League launch, Kerry selector Mikey Sheehy sat down to discuss the county’s dismal All-Ireland semi-final replay defeat to Mayo last year and his hopes for the
season ahead.

Everything was on the table — including the Kingdom’s “emabarrassing” level of support in said semi defeat.

Did you have to consider staying on with Éamonn Fitzmaurice?

I’ve been around since 2013. Once Éamonn was staying on, he asked me ‘was I committed’ and I said, ‘if you’re staying on, I’ll stay on if you want me. I’d be happy to do it’.

Was it a case that you didn’t want things to end on a sour note?

It was a bit like that. Last year, our replay performance against Mayo was very disappointing. I would have been a bit disappointed with our performance against Galway also.

You could see from our Munster final victory, which was quite impressive even though we got a bit of grief over that as well (there was a downturn)… but it wasn’t that either. I just like being involved.

Plus the fact there’s new talent coming through. People in Kerry have to be patient. Whatever happens this year, we would still have ambitions for doing well overall.

How tough was the winter? Did you have to duck a few times?

You did. There were a lot of snipers around, I can tell you! They are in Kerry but, it doesn’t bother me and it doesn’t bother Éamonn or any of the lads. If it did bother you, I wouldn’t be here talking!

I’d be gone because there are other things we can do with our lives. We love Kerry football and we love football in general and we love being involved. If you take notice of those people you wouldn’t be there.

They were there when I was playing and they’re there when I’m involved in management. They will always be there.

Do the Dubs from the 1970s teams walk around with their chests out now?

I met a few of them at various functions and they do, and rightly so. They were down for a while and they were down a good bit for a long time. This is an exceptional bunch.

Pat Gilroy has to take a lot of the credit as well, he made the breakthrough in 2011 and they’ve built on that big time. Jim Gavin is a serious operator.

In my eyes, nobody will touch Micko but if anybody was to touch him, then Jim Gavin seems to be the man that could put him under a bit of pressure. In our time, and this is no disrespect to anybody, it was easier.

There was no backdoor, I think we only had four games to win All-Irelands.

Having said that, it would be quite difficult to keep players focused on that when you had maybe five or six weeks between games.

There’s a lot of talk about cynicism in the game — is it more cynical now than in your playing days?

Not at all. Things went on. A lot of stuff went on. Nowadays there are cameras everywhere. In our time, there wasn’t a lot of cameras. You could be getting plenty of grief. It was every bit as cynical.

I could understand Lee Keegan’s frustration (throwing the GPS unit at Dean Rock). He knew it. They knew it that the game was up — unless they won the next kick-out — and then the Dubs made sure they weren’t going to win the next kick-out.

Fair play to Dublin for what they did. They manhandled their players, kicked away the thing. I would have no issue with players doing that once you win the game.

‘We got it totally wrong, on and off the field’, says Mikey Sheehy

You have spoken about your admiration for Mayo’ supporters in the 2017 semi-finals. What of Kerry’s?

The amount of support that they had both days against us. Actually, I felt the Kerry support were embarrassing, there were so few Kerry people there.

I would have been very strong about that, particularly for the replay. They didn’t travel, whether it was because it was a Saturday afternoon or not. The team deserves (support). Mayo, look how many times they have lost and you go outside and you see the crowd…

Does that filter down to the sideline?

It does, of course, the players would be aware of it. I saw something in the papers during the week, was it 2,500 at one Mayo game in the FBD League? To be fair, you’d have to admire them. They back their team.

They have nearly as far to travel as the Kerry supporters, but our lads, the genuine people go there. That wasn’t an excuse why we lost. We lost because we were beaten by a better team. The support was shocking, shocking.

Mick O’Dwyer said 1982 still haunts him. Do any recent matches haunt you as much as ’82?

One of the biggest disappointments I would have had outside of ’82 would have been our performance against Mayo last year. It was shocking. It was so flat. So disappointing.

They were far better than us on the day and deserved to beat us by five or six points more than they did in the finish. We prepared very well for it. We played reasonably in the drawn game and could have stolen it, but we wouldn’t have deserved it.

In the replay, there would only have been one team in it. A lot of soul searching went on over the winter.

The management took a lot of flak regarding tactics such as the sweeper. Did you get it right?

No, we got it wrong on the day. You just hold up your hands. We got it totally wrong, not alone on the field but off the field and we just had to take the criticism for that. But, as I said earlier, if you were to take that too much to heart I wouldn’t be involved now.

We took ferocious criticism too. Oh, my God, you couldn’t… you’d stay away from the bars.

It was cat stuff. Then the thing that would annoy you at times, a lot of fellas who were giving flak were fellas who weren’t even at the game.


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