Éamonn Fitzmaurice wants greater effort to ‘keep lads at home’

Kerry manager Éamonn Fitzmaurice believes more must be done to “keep lads at home” as more and more young GAA stars are being targeted by AFL clubs.
Éamonn Fitzmaurice wants greater effort to ‘keep lads at home’

Rising Kingdom talent Mark O’Connor inked a deal with Geelong last year and Fitzmaurice believes the GAA need to be more proactive in tackling the issue.

He admitted: “It’s not ideal. You want the lads to stay around. You don’t want your best players being taken.

“But I think we have to look at it from our own point of view on how we make it that the lads don’t want to go, that they want to stay around and they want to play for Kerry and that is the number one ambition, simple as that.

“With the lure of a professional lifestyle it’s hard for young fellows to turn down the chance of going there, but I think that we have to look at ourselves at home first of all and see how we can keep the lads at home.”

Fitzmaurice said the Kerry U21 team face Tipperary this weekend in the McGrath Cup as the senior squad will have only two training sessions under their belts.

“Then the following Sunday it will be a senior squad that will take on Cork below in Cork. With regard to the senior squad there is a good lot of coming and going at the moment because of the club situation obviously with Glenbeigh/Glencar, Kenmare and Crokes. So the Crokes players are going to stay with the Crokes until they are finished , similarly with Darran O’Sullivan and Stephen O’Brien.”

Fitzmaurice admitted that veterans Aidan O’Mahony, Kieran Donaghy and Colm Cooper have yet to commit to another season of inter-county football. But he hopes their plans will become clearer in the coming weeks.

“Aidan is still thinking about his future, Kieran the same while Colm is focused on the Crokes at the moment. I have nothing firm on any of those at the moment.

“I haven’t set any deadline as such but I would be expecting to hear from them during the month of January one way or the other because at that stage I think it is time to have made a call and be ready to move forward whether they are going again or not.”

Fitzmaurice’s squad is relatively injury-free - Anthony Maher is expected to be fit by the end of the month - and he is looking forward to working with new selector Maurice Fitzgerald.

“Obviously Diarmuid Murphy is a big loss and he had given great service to Kerry for the last number of years, he was a selector with Jack and then he came on board with me.

“What Maurice will bring is his personality, the type of person that he is to the dressing room.

“He will be very good with players, very good one on one with players particularly with the forwards. So I see him having a big role there.

“I think when people see Maurice they think that he is kind of a very easy happy go lucky kind of fellow.

“Maybe he projects that but there is serious steel behind that personality as well so I think he will bring that to the squad.

“He will bring a bit of freshness, he is a ferociously honest person. I think last year when Liam (Hassett) came in he brought a great freshness to the management and to the whole set-up and I would be hoping for something similar from Maurice this year. I think he will bring a lot to the table.”

The mark will be trialled this year but Fitzmaurice is not expecting the new rule “to make a whole pile of difference” given the focus on short kick-outs among many inter-county teams.

“I don’t think the introduction of the mark is going to make a whole pile of difference. I will be interested to see how it works but I think so many teams are taking short kick-outs, only kicking the ball 10 or 15 yards that the mark doesn’t come into play then.

“But obviously if you can win the ball further out the field , you win it and win a free and it can be advantageous. Of course it is something that we will look at because we have midfielders who are good fielders and they are strong in the air. It is something that we should try and use for sure.”

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