Instead, they prepare for that appetising contest at Austin Stack Park with four points in the bank, the Dubs and their historic unbeaten run in their sights, and the not inconsiderable chance of a place in the league final still to play for early next month.
A good day, then.
“I am pleased with the result, pleased with the attitude and the spirit in the group,” said Fitzmaurice.
“It was better than last weekend (against Monaghan). There were aspects of the performance we would not be pleased with it. Football-wise we are still not where we would like to be but we expect that this early in the year.”
If Kerry are looking up, then Roscommon are staring down the barrel. That’s four games and four defeats for Kevin McStay’s side but they came painfully close to injecting considerable life into their season yesterday as they hunted down a decent Kerry lead in the last quarter despite being reduced to 14 men.
Fade-outs have been an annoying thread to Kerry’s story in recent times and it looked like stretching through this encounter as injury-time dawned and Diarmuid Murtagh’s penalty slimmed a five-point half-time lead down to the minimum.
The Kingdom had gone 13 minutes with just the one point, their hosts compiling 1-3, but an injury-time Paul Geaney goal, sandwiched by a pair of points from James O’Donoghue and Stephen O’Brien, pulled the Kingdom clear just as the unpalatable prospect of more dropped points loomed.
“That was the most pleasing aspect after we conceded the penalty,” said the Kerry boss. “The bit of momentum seemed to be going against us. I thought the lads showed great courage and we accelerated away and finished the game well.
“We finished the game well against Monaghan as well but we left ourselves with too much to do. The big difference was that the attitude was spot on this time whereas last weekend I was very disappointed with our attitude in front of our own crowd.”
Kerry are still operating without the likes of Colm Cooper and his Dr Crokes colleagues as well as Kieran Donaghy and the county U21s. They lost Donnchadh Walsh to a black card here and Killian Young was pulled with 14 minutes to go. That’s a lot of class and nous to operate without.
This time there were others ready and able to step up — chief among them were David Moran in midfield and Paul Geaney at full-forward. With the former dominating the centre and the latter poaching and assisting, Kerry had a solid base on which to work all afternoon.
Moran made at least three ‘marks’ and on those occasions when he wasn’t bombing forward he was stitching play together for others on a day that benefited from a lack of rainfall, a manageable breeze, and the Hyde’s superb new surface. The wind still played its part and, though Kerry benefited from it in the opening period, it was strong enough for Roscommon to tweak their approach and go in search of the odd goal.
Brendan Kealy turned away a sixth-minute effort from Cian Connolly but another couple of prospects were no better than half-chances. Kerry? They were happy enough to tap over their points with half of their dozen in the first-half coming from Geaney.
The third quarter proved crucial. With the wind stiffening and in their faces, Kerry managed to reach the 55th-minute with their five-point advantage extended by one as O’Donoghue came into the game. Roscommon looked goosed when John McManus was dismissed for what looked like a light brush on O’Donoghue’s cheek. To their credit, the hosts rallied. Diarmuid Murtagh came off the bench to inject extra danger into their forward line and it was the substitute’s brother Ciaran who sent Kealy the wrong way from the penalty spot on the cusp of the 70-minute after Enda Smith had been fouled by Tadhg Morley.
Where exactly the offence took place was another thing.
“I don’t know,” said Fitzmaurice. “I didn’t see it but some of the boys reckoned it was outside the square all right. When a penalty is given you have to roll with the punches but the important thing is that we responded well after conceding it.” They did that.
Next up: A far greater test of their mettle.
C Murtagh (1-2, 1-0 penalty); D Smith (0-3 frees); D Murtagh (0-3, 2 frees); F Cregg (0-2); C Connolly (0-2); D O’Malley (0-1 free).
P Geaney (1-6, 0-4 frees): J O’Donoghue (0-4, 2 frees):J Savage and BJ Keane (both 0-2); S Enright, P Crowley, D Moran, P Murphy, S O’Brien (all 0-1).
D O’Malley; D Murray, S Mullooly, N McInerney; J McManus, S McDermott, C Devaney; E Smith, T O’Rourke; F Cregg, R Stack, S Killoran; D Smith, C Murtagh, C Connolly.
C Cafferkey for McDermott (32); D Murtagh for Conolly (HT); N Kilroy for Smith (44); B Murtagh for Cregg (56); P Brogan for Murray (65).
B Kealy; S Enright, K Young, R Shanahan; P Crowley, P Murphy, T Morley; D Moran, J Barry; K McCarthy, J Savage, D Walsh; BJ Keane, P Geaney, J O’Donoghue.
S O’Brien for Walsh (black card, 25); A Maher for Barry (31); M Griffin for Crowley (52); D O’Sullivan for Savage (52); J Lyne for Young (56); M Geaney for Keane (69).
B Cassidy (Derry).