Ahead of Sunday’s league decider, the Kerry manager has hit out at the “complete lack of balance” regarding Kerry’s physical approach against Dublin in Tralee last month. Fitzmaurice also expressed concern that the narrative surrounding his team is straying into territory similar to the build-up to last year’s All-Ireland final where he believes there was an orchestrated campaign against Mayo’s Lee Keegan.
But Bealin, midfield on Dublin’s 1995 All-Ireland winning team, isn’t buying it.
He rubbishes the suggestion there is a witchhunt against Kerry or more pertinently, that it is being driven by members of the Dublin set-up.
He reckons Fitzmaurice is attempting to take the onus of his team ahead of a game that they didn’t want to be involved in.
They haven’t beaten Jim Gavin’s men in their last five league and championship encounters and Bealin says this team are under huge pressure to end Dublin’s dominance over them. Mentally, he says, Fitzmaurice’s players are not ready for another shot at Dublin so soon after their stalemate clash at Tralee.
“I crossed paths with Eamonn when as Westmeath manager we played them in the league in 2014 and his kind words after that game meant an awful lot to me. It is not his style to deflect away from the team. He obviously feels he has to speak out.
“If I look at what he is actually saying, I don’t necessarily agree there is a witchhunt against Kerry or Kerry football. I don’t believe any of the Dublin team or management would buy into that. This is a deflection tactic,” he insisted.
“I’d be shocked to think there is a witchhunt by the Dublin backroom team or whoever. I don’t believe the Dublin team would actually go out to shape the referee’s mind towards a performance.
“This is a deflection. Managers do it the length and breadth of the country. They try to take the onus away from the players, take the pressure off the players going into a league final and deflect, preoccupy the mind with something else that can grow legs, while, at the same time, put the heads down and try and win the game. Fitzmaurice’s comments will take the pressure off his players and he’ll take the heat. Hopefully, then, the team will go out and perform. Kerry are under a huge amount of pressure to win this game, particularly with the run Dublin have on them.”
The Kingdom secured their place in Sunday’s Allianz Division 1 decider by virtue of a superior scoring difference to Donegal, Monaghan, and Mayo. Bealin is of the opinion that following their 0-13 apiece draw at Austin Stack Park, Kerry had zero interest in locking horns with the men from the capital until late in the summer.
“They wanted to get through the league programme and then prepare for the championship. Now they find themselves playing Dublin again. I don’t think Kerry wanted to play Dublin again so soon. If they beat Dublin, great. It is something they’ll put in their back pocket at having beaten a team with such a long unbeaten run. I don’t think in their own heads they’re ready to play Dublin yet. This came too soon for them. That said, they’re still going to go out and do everything they can to win the game. They’ll still want to stop Dublin.
“Kerry went out to win the Tralee game. They were four ahead. And Dublin still clawed it back to draw level. That would have been an absolute suckerpunch for that Kerry team. And that wasn’t that long ago. I think they are wounded.”
Bealin’s old team-mate Paul Curran recently accused Kerry of abandoning their values, commenting that they should be “ashamed” of their style of play. Citing the closing stages of the league fixture in Tralee where Dublin kicked two late points to rescue a draw, Bealin insists Kerry’s approach has taken on a more negative look since 2011.
“They tried to hold onto the lead in Tralee, rather than go and win the game. For a team like Kerry with the forwards they have and the tradition they have over the years, you would expect them to close out the game. I don’t believe the mindset is there to close out games in that fashion where they continue to attack.
“Go back to the 2011 All-Ireland final. With seven minutes to go, Kerry were four ahead and trying to run the clock down. We know the Kerry team that is always on the front foot and always on the attack. We have seen that they have begun to sit back and invite teams on when they take a lead.
“That is something I had never seen in a Kerry team up until 2011. It has certainly caused them difficulty with closing out games.”