Kingdom ambitions remain the same — win

Call it semantics but the finishing line hasn’t moved for them.

Kingdom ambitions remain the same — win

Even if Colm Cooper is sidelined, James O’Donoghue’s match fitness is questionable and Messrs Ó Sé and Galvin have taken to their eternal seats in the stands, the goals remain the same. There is a Munster title and then there is an All-Ireland.

“Sure if I say we are under the radar, we’re no longer under the radar!” he smiles. “If you’re saying we’re in transition, if in transition means that there’s changes to the team, to the squad, then yes, there is.

“But I look on that as a regeneration. Of course lads are going to retire, of course you’ve injuries, fellas are going to move on. That’s the nature of it.

“Great players have retired in the past and we’ve had to replace them and sometimes you can’t replace them. Sometimes you’ve to go a different way about it so our ambitions don’t change.

“We’re going up to Cork to win the game. If we don’t win the game we’ll reassess, we’ll go down the qualifier route, we’ll see if we can win that way and get into Croke Park through the back door.

“Ultimately we want to be there on the third Sunday in September so the ambitions don’t change. You still want to go out, you still want to win every game.”

In Kerry, they’re not in the habit of looking into the neighbour’s garden but Fitzmaurice is happy with how his team rank up against most counties right now.

“We’re a work in progress. There are very few teams that are the finished article. The likes of Dublin are probably the finished article, the likes of Mayo, they’ve been very settled for the last couple of years.

“But there are a lot of other teams, Cork included, that are a work in progress. We are most definitely a work in progress but once we incrementally improve throughout the Championship and keep winning games I’ll be happy.”

Fitzmaurice’s expectations of his players don’t match those of the Kerry public’s; they exceed them.

It’s quite possible six of the team that lost to Cork in Páirc Uí Chaoimh at this stage two years ago will start on Sunday. If the manager is worried about inexperience, he hides it well.

“I think they’ll love it,” he says of his young guns. “That’s what being a Kerry footballer is about. It’s what being a footballer, full stop, is about.

“It’s not about running around in the muck on January and February or playing in venues maybe where there’s a thousand or a couple of thousand people. It’s about the big day.

“That’s why the lads make all the sacrifices and Páirc Uí Chaoimh for a Munster final is a big day so I wouldn’t be one bit afraid of the young lads.”

Both he and Brian Cuthbert will this week be in the business of second guessing each other tactically but he’s willing to suggest saying goodbye to Páirc Uí Chaoimh with a win will not feature in his opposite number’s team talk. “I don’t think Brian Cuthbert is going to be banging a table before the Cork lads go out on Sunday week and saying ‘lads, we have to win it — it’s the last Munster final in Páirc Uí Chaoimh before it’s redeveloped’. It’s a thing you look back on afterwards and if Cork win it they’ll be happy.”

He has high regard for Cuthbert. “Last January, they were being given no hope at all because of all the retirements and new management and everything else. Suddenly, they were All-Ireland contenders after a few league games.”

Kerry certainly have more orthodox midfielders than Cork but the manager isn’t so sure it’s a real advantage to them. He highlights how he had to replace David Moran early on against Clare when Clare were on top and Moran had been mismatched against a runner in Shane McGrath.

“The role of a midfielder certainly has changed but at the same time, depending on what way you’re playing and you can dictate you’re on play, there can be a role for a traditional midfielder as well.

“When all the lads are right and playing to the top of their game we’ve a very strong midfield set-up but I think, in fairness to Cork, we felt the same thing going in the day of the league game. We were wiped out in the middle of the field that day, particularly in breaking ball.”

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