Fionn Fitzgerald fully expects Kerry to make amends on Sunday for last year’s Munster semi-final defeat to Cork but the Division 1 draw with Dublin has given him cause for concern about a later date with the All-Ireland champions.
The 2014 All-Ireland winning captain knows the team took heart from how they came back to earn a point against Dessie Farrell’s side in Thurles. However, their first-half show alarmed him.
“I think there has been quite some learning from last year,” he says of the Cork result last November.
“It was obviously disappointing for everyone but you always learn a huge amount more from losing than winning. I would have been disappointed with the Dublin game. A lot of people were delighted with how they finished but in the first half, I thought Kerry would and should have shown more intent. I thought Dublin at the start laid down the marker when it was Kerry who should have had more to show.
“Otherwise, Kerry’s form is very good. The guys in key positions are starting to go up the gears now. Where do I think they’re at? I’d expect them to win at the weekend and they’re not going to be road-tested until they face Dublin later in the year. Anything other than an All-Ireland will be disappointing for Kerry.
“Dublin are still the team to beat. The first lockdown suited Dublin and this one might too because there have been breaks from the five-in-a-row. It feels new to them. I still think Kerry are the team to beat them and will beat them and hopefully it will be this year.”
MTU health and leisure lecturer Fitzgerald (31) believes the conditioning of players has improved because lockdown has afforded them time to work on their physiques.
“Fitness levels have gone up another couple of levels. From the lads I know in the Kerry set-up and what they were doing on their own during lockdown, they’re in incredible shape. The last couple of years has given them players time to work on weaknesses in their games when they might not have had the opportunity to do so previously.
“Before Covid hit, if you were playing with a successful club or county, you were looking at a long season which doesn’t work well from your physical perspective. There has never been a proper off-season in the GAA so the pandemic has actually helped players to do that work and rehab old injuries.”
Fitzgerald disagrees with Peter Keane that a league-based All-Ireland senior football championship next season could be detrimental for inter-county players.
Speaking with his strength and conditioning hat on, he accepts it would present a hurdle from a sports science point of view but maintains it would be embraced by players.
“Eleven games in an All-Ireland season would be tough going but players will love that. It’s a challenge for sports science. A really long pre-season will be required, which hasn’t been the case this year. I would bite my arm off for that amount of games, though.
“That was one of the biggest issues for me as the years went on. It became draining, training for a month and you could be the best player on the field at the start of it and struggling for form by the end of it. Games are important because when they’re played regularly and often like the league you can pick up form as quickly as you lose it.”