The Allianz Football League might be over for Kerry, but there’s no rest for Eamonn Fitzmaurice.
This weekend the Kerry manager will be on the sideline for Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibhne in the Hogan Cup final facing St Patrick’s Maghera. As he says, the West Kerry school has come a long way in a short while.
“This particular group since they came into the school have enjoyed a lot of success, and while we went close to reaching the Hogan Cup final over the past couple of years, this is our year getting into the final, so it’s great to finally get there and to have cut at trying to win it.”
Fitzmaurice went to school in Gaelcoláiste Chiarraí and had a good run with the Kerry Vocational Schools side as a player, but admits there’s always been “something special about the Hogan Cup”.
“In the last 10 years the interest seemed to grow in the Hogan Cup, with Coláiste na Sceilge winning it under Jack O’Connor in 2009, because before that it was Intermediate School Killorglin with Mike Frank Russell in 1996 and then St Brendan’s College in 1992, with Seamus Moynihan.
“Winning the Hogan Cup hasn’t happened that often for the Kerry schools so maybe that’s why the Corn Uí Mhuirí caught more of the imagination.
“But the Hogan Cup is a very special competition, when you think of some of the traditional schools that have won it and the numbers that are attending those schools, and even going back to the boarding school tradition, there is no doubt that it is a very prestigious competition.”
Corca Dhuibhne overcame a replayed quarter-final clash with Coláiste Chriost Rí after a controversy over a black card awarded in the game, but Fitzmaurice played down the significance of those events.
“It wasn’t that difficult to be honest, because we made a decision to accept the ruling. We could easily have gone and counter-appealed, and I think we would have had a very strong case and we would have won the appeal, to be honest, because there were lots of things that went on in the background that were not done in the right manner.
“The management spoke to the players as well to see what they thought as we wanted to see were they happy with it, and in the interests of trying to get over Chriost Rí and playing the game we felt that we were just better off to play the game again.
“In many ways it was the extra game that made us, because we needed it and it brought us on a bit. Possibly if we hadn’t that extra game we would not have been ready for the Sem [St Brendan’s Killarney] in the semi-final.”
They’ve also been helped by co-operation from the Kerry minor football management.
“I think myself and Tommy [Griffin] learned a lot from last year, from Corn Uí Mhuirí final to the Hogan Cup semi-final.
“It simply did not work for us last year. There was a lot going on, the lads were being pulled and dragged in lot of different directions. We also picked up knocks, even small things that you would not think about, but which crop up with school teams.
“I remember last year, a lot of the lads left projects go until the last minute and they were under pressure at school.
“There are exams going on at the moment and there was a lot of that stuff last year which interfered with our preparation, whereas this year, early on the lads got very organised with their projects and with schoolwork making sure that there was none of that stuff hanging over them.
“[Kerry minor boss] Jack O’Connor has not looked for them only on a game day with the Kerry minors, and the whole squad have been playing games and it has helped us, so I think that we managed it a bit better this time around and that has helped.”
St Patrick’s have five titles from eight final appearances, though, and are the current holders of the Hogan Cup.
“We have to concentrate on ourselves and get ourselves right. I felt all along this year, that if we are right and if we are playing to the top of our game, it will take a good team, to beat us.
“Of course Maghera are specialists, they have a great tradition, they have massive history in the school, they have huge numbers, they are very proud of their Gaelic tradition in the school and they will have huge support down supporting the team.
“But we are looking forward to the game. It’s fantastic to have got to the final because this time last year we were looking at Navan playing them, and they gave Navan a good trimming, and we were wondering could we have done any better.”
Fitzmaurice feels if his side can improve on their last outing they’re in with a great chance: “We are going up there to win. I keep coming back to the point, and I believe this when I am thinking about the game, I just think it will take a very good team to beat us, if we can improve again and we need to improve again from the semi-final.
“If we improve again the next day, and we can go at the way we are capable off, then I still believe it will take a very good team to beat us.”