In patches, they went close to full speed. That they didn’t maintain it was noted by Éamonn Fitzmaurice. Mind you, the Kerry manager could be accused of nitpicking here given his charges simply didn’t need to be at full throttle.
The five-in-a-row Munster champions opened both halves full of intent, landing four without reply in the opening four minutes, and then producing five unanswered points immediately upon the change of ends. Their second-half burst was particularly crucial given it propelled them 0-16 to 0-7 clear on the scoreboard.
“There were parts of the game that we played very well, but we didn’t sustain it. There were bursts when we played very well and then periods when we weren’t as accurate as we needed to be. We were giving away the ball and making incorrect decisions. But they are the areas that we will look to improve on.
“Any day you win a Munster final relatively comfortably, you are going to have to be happy and you have to take it.”
A significant contributor in making this such a comfortable Munster final win was James O’Donoghue. Nine points he tallied against Clare in the semi-final, seven was his offering here.
“He is huge for us,” Fitzmaurice asserted.
“He is huge for any team when he is on top of his game. He has been unlucky with injuries for the past couple of years whereas he hasn’t this season. Ok, the second half of his league was interrupted, but he had a lot of work done and is in great physical shape.
“When his body is good, the football takes care of itself. He has been showing that for the last couple of games. We need him to keep going that way and to go up another level or two if he can.”
Almost more pertinent is the threat offered inside when both Paul Geaney and James O’Donoghue are on the field together.
“They have played minor and U-21. They are the same age and played a lot of football together. But over the last few years for whatever reason, there have been different knocks that ruled them out at different times. But they are both at a great age now. They are 27, they are experienced, robust and are in a great place physically. Hopefully, we can keep them fit and on the pitch. Because they are exciting.”
Champing at the bit to join the pair in the Kerry attack is Stephen O’Brien. Introduced off the bench against Clare last time out, he notched up 1-1. Yesterday, the Kenmare man kicked three points from play when called down from the stand. Fitzmaurice revealed O’Brien was never a likely starter given he struggled with a hamstring injury last weekend.
“Again, he made a massive impact when he came on at half-time. So, no more than a lot of other fellas, he is pushing hard for a starting place and that is the way we want him to be.
“The big thing is that there is a great attitude in the group. If you start, you go at it as hard as you can and if you come on as one of the finishers, you give your best as well. When you have that dynamic and spirit in the group, it is a powerful thing.”
The Kerry manager says Fionn Fitzgerald will have to be monitored in the coming weeks in light of his second-half departure, via stretcher.
“Initially, there were fears for his jaw, but I’d say he’s concussed. He was bleeding from the nose as well. I think it was one of our fellas he collided with. Thankfully he’s back to himself.
“We didn’t close the game out great after Fionn’s injury. The edge seemed to go out of the game after that stoppage. We made a share of mistakes late on. When the 10 minutes injury time went up, we didn’t seem to react great to that.
“The lads will go back to their clubs and we have three weeks to be ready, then, for Croke Park. The qualifiers are fraught with threatening opposition this year, so whoever we get in that quarter-final will be a good test and it’s something to look forward to now.”
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