He weighed up the odds in his head. Kerry, 5/1 for the All-Ireland?
“There’s always a thing with Kerry where you never know,” he mused.
“Like, there’s always a curiosity of what they’ll come with.” And then Éamonn Fitzmaurice stepped back into his manager’s moccasins and made for the long grass.
“After next Sunday, we will either be one way or the other — people will start talking about us again or they’ll say, ‘yeah they really are a couple of years away from this thing’,” the Kerry boss remarked.
“From a personal perspective, I am really looking forward to the summer, I am excited about it, about our squad, excited about the format. I am bursting for games, and all the lads are the same I’d imagine.
It isn’t just the chattering classes struggling to get a fix on where to put Kerry in the rankings. Some who’ve only stepped outside the bubble are parched for real information. Who’s going well, who’s injured, what way the attack will line up, what sort of work they’ve done to shore up a leaky defence?
Only those who climb trees can claim with any veracity that the Kingdom are motoring well behind closed doors. Fitzmaurice is not a man for challenge games, believing his squad get a robust scrutiny of their worth behind the closed gates of Fitzgerald Stadium. And closed they will remain, despite the consequences.
“The closed training was something that had to happen,” Fitzmaurice says. “The unfortunate part (of that) is that bit of a link with the supporters has suffered, and it’s something we have to work on.
“That connection between the supporters and the players in particular, don’t mind the management.
Has the connection with the Kerry support been lost?
“I don’t think it’s been lost. It’s important to have a tight ship, there’s so much coverage now and it’s so easy for stuff to get out on social media. Every fella has an opinion and it’s easy to get the opinion out there.
“But there is a hardcore Kerry supporting group who go to every game and there’s a great link there, a real link. But with the general public, yes, it’s something we have to work on, and something I’ve been thinking about. We need to get a small bit better at that in Kerry. And success helps it.”
Kerry’s Division 1 report card indicated potential growth but ultimately amounted to a ‘Can Do Better’ verdict.
Impatient natives had plenty to grouch about with defeats to Monaghan, Dublin, Galway, and Tyrone but proper assessment of where Fitzmaurice’s rebuild is will wait for this autumn and may — depending on performance — stretch into 2019.
The league was “a mixed bag,” he accepted, with good reason.
“We had an appreciation this year that we had a lot of fellas who needed to see game time. The last couple of years we’d have liked to have done that but couldn’t, with the Under 21 Championship crossing over with it.
“In an ideal world this spring, you’d have fed in less of the younger lads in together. You’d have looked at the same number, but you mightn’t have as many of them playing the games at once. That was the hand we were dealt. Overall, I was happy with the league, but it’s almost like another season now, we’ve moved on from it.”
If the relationship with, and level of support from the Kerry public, is something that needs work, Fitzmaurice understands too that it’s a fickler audience these days. The need for instant judgment and gratification has skewed reality.
“I was at the club final between Dr Crokes and Dingle, which was a good fixture, and there was maybe a couple of hundred there.
“I was sitting there thinking, ‘is there a lot else on TV today.
“Or is it all a reflection of how society has gone? I am beating us up about the link with our supporters, and then I wonder are people just not going to games anymore?
“I was really scratching my head at some of those games.
“Like what else was going on that evening that people wouldn’t go out for an hour and support their club?”
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