Éamonn Fitzmaurice: Taking off Paul Geaney may have been a mistake

Éamonn Fitzmaurice accepts he may have made an error in taking off Paul Geaney in the closing stages of last Sunday week’s All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Dublin.

Speaking to Dara Ó Cinnéide on Raidió na Gaeltachta, he also said referee David Gough made slip-ups but didn’t hold him accountable for Kerry’s loss. “The referee made mistakes on the day... but even with the mistakes, we should have won. We made mistakes, particularly in the last 10 minutes and they are costly mistakes. We need to improve our composure at the end of matches, that’s our challenge for next year.”

On the subject of Geaney, Fitzmaurice remarked: “Perhaps we should have left Paul on the pitch. He’s the best forward in the country at the moment. It may have been a mistake. But the analysis always points to the person who’s not there as the key to a win, but that’s too easy.”

Reappointed for another two years on Tuesday, the Kerry boss bemoaned the negativity that envelops Gaelic football at the moment. “One of the things that stands out is there is a lot of negative coverage around matches and structures. People are giving out but they don’t go to the matches. We have to change that mentality because it’s not good... people need to go to the matches and to be more positive.”

Fitzmaurice’s future as Kerry manager was sealed following July’s Munster final win over Tipperary, he revealed yesterday. Stating there is “unfinished business” to attend to after the board on Tuesday night gave him a further two years in charge, Fitzmaurice recalled how county chairman Patrick O’Sullivan had spoken to him about remaining on in the position earlier in the year before they discussed the matter again after he led Kerry to a fourth consecutive provincial title in Killarney.

“It was not that tough, to be honest. Look, I had spoken to Patrick O’Sullivan earlier on in the year during the league and we had spoken again in July after the Munster final.

“I pretty much made the decision at that stage that I was going to stay on. Obviously, we were very disappointed after the defeat to Dublin but at the same time there is unfinished business and we want to go one step further next year if we can.”

In an interview with Jerry O’Sullivan on Radio Kerry yesterday, Fitzmaurice said he had known for some weeks he would be staying at the helm. “I had spoken to the players about it because obviously that is the most important thing. It is not so much about me as it is about the players because they are still buying into what we are trying to do. That was an important consideration as well.

“It wasn’t a decision that was made in the last week of course; maybe after the Dublin game I might have been questioning myself for a day or two perhaps. But once you thaw out, like I said, there’s unfinished business there and we just want to keep going and get it that step further.”

He won’t be pushing any of the more seasoned players out the door. “The older lads have been outstanding servants for Kerry and they were outstanding again this year. I think often times — and I’ve said this before — that there’s a rush to retire fellas. People are mad anxious to retire players and get rid of them as quickly as they can and as soon as they’re gone then, they’re wondering who’s going to fill the void. I think what people miss a lot of the time is what players are bringing to the pitch and the older players have brought a lot to the pitch this year for us.”

The argument Kerry’s older stars lack pace doesn’t wash with Fitzmaurice. “Any time we’re doing the runs in training, they’re always up there at the top of the group. So there’s no lack of legs, it’s more about having the ball and that’s why when people look at Dublin they say they’re full of pace and full of running, but that’s because they have the ball so much and they’re very good at supporting each other and driving on.”


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