Eamonn Fitzmaurice hit out yesterday at references to Kerry’s physicality, referring to a “complete lack of balance” in the narrative and instancing cases of Kerry players being fouled in the past.
Former Dublin star Paul Curran said last week that Kerry should be “ashamed” of their style of play, while Dublin defender Philly McMahon called attention to Kerry’s physicality in the sides’ recent league clash.
Ahead of the counties’ rematch in the league final next Sunday, he launched a stinging riposte: “I had a good think about this and normally I don’t react to this stuff. Normally I kick for touch with these kinds of things because I don’t know whatever you want to call those things — mind games, I don’t believe in it. I believe there is a game of football to be played and you trust the referee to get it right.
“But I do find it a bit worrying that there is a narrative out there at the moment and I don’t think it’s balanced at all.”
Fitzmaurice said he couldn’t say whether that “narrative” was there to put pressure on referees: “I don’t know. Look, supporters of their own teams are going to have their views with the Dublin supporters having blue-tinted glasses and the Kerry supporters are going to have green and gold-tinted glasses. That’s the way it is. But I think there is a complete lack of balance at the moment.
“It’s important this goes in — I think that the Dublin team are a serious team that we have the utmost respect for. They’re a fantastic footballing team, an attacking footballing team with brilliant players and with an outstanding manager. But make no mistake about it — they have a hard edge about them, and a seriously hard edge. Any team that wins as much as they do ... If you go back to the Kerry team of the noughties, the Tyrone team of the noughties, the Kilkenny hurling team that won four-in-a-row — they all had a hard edge about them, and Dublin have that also.”
He referred to incidents between the counties: “Going back to the All-Ireland of 2011, Declan O’Sullivan was taken out of it, going back to the 2013 final when they were down a man for the last five minutes and they basically had to tactically foul to see it out. Going back to the end of the All-Ireland semi-final last year when one of our players was wrestled to the ground and basically choked. So they have a hard edge but so have we.
“I have never tried to paint us whiter than white, but what I find annoying at the moment, and the reason I felt that I had to respond this evening, was out of my duty to the players that we are going into the weekend on a level playing pitch. My worry was that it was developing into a situation like the All-Ireland final replay last year where there was an orchestrated campaign against Lee Keegan that was effective for the All-Ireland final replay.
“So normally, as I said, I would not open my mouth about things like that but I feel out of my duty to the players I had to address it this evening.
“I had to say that there is a complete lack of balance even within our own county, and I just think it’s unfair on our players.”
Fitzmaurice acknowledged that in the sides’ league meeting recently in Austin Stack Park there had been some “silly stuff” going on:
“I think some of the stuff that went on in the first half was a bit silly, I don’t know what expression you would use for it, but I think in the second half both teams played an awful lot of good football and I can’t remember too many incidents in the second half. So I would be hoping that the game would be more like the second half than the first.”
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