Eamonn Fitzmaurice to ‘freshen up’ Kerry squad for long road ahead

Kerry football manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice admits he will “freshen up” his squad in the weeks ahead.

Fitzmaurice accepts there is a need to introduce new players, but stressed that management’s focus isn’t entirely centred on Jack O’Connor’s U21 team — both Brian Ó Beaglaoich and Tom O’Sullivan will remain part of the senior set-up until after the opening two rounds of the national league.

And while several members of the Kerry senior panel, including Brendan Kealy, Aidan O’Mahony, Marc Ó Sé, Donnchadh Walsh, Kieran Donaghy, Colm Cooper and Bryan Sheehan fall into the 30-plus bracket, the Kerry boss maintains his is a young squad.

“There is an appetite for freshness in the squad, and there is no doubt we will have to freshen up the squad. That is one of the things that will happen,” said Fitzmaurice.

“I think people don’t appreciate, as well, that it is quite a young squad. 

“Okay, you have a couple of fellas in their early 30s, you have a couple of veterans.

“But there are a lot of fellas in their mid 20s.

“There is no doubt about the power of youth, but you have to balance it. 

“In an ideal world, you would love to give seven or eight of the U21s a go early in the national league.

“They are preparing for a big Munster championship match in early March.

“We are conscious of too much disruption, but we are conscious we also want to give a couple of them a look at things.”

He continued: “The bottom line is you want the best 26 fellas representing Kerry, regardless of age. 

“It doesn’t matter if they are young or old, once they are the best 26.

“That is where you want to get come championship.

“When players mind themselves and because of the sport science that is there and because of the lifestyles fellas lead, they can play for longer.

“Two of the fittest lads we have inside are Aidan O’Mahony and Marc Ó Sé. It is going to come back to who is playing well, whose form is good and who can do a job for us on a given day.”

Clare manager Colm Collins, meanwhile, says there won’t be a single member of his squad getting carried away with Sunday’s three-point win over Kerry.

Clare haven’t contested the McGrath Cup final since 2011, having last won the competition in 2002.

“The great thing about it is that it buys you another competitive match. To be truthful about it, we wanted to get the extra match so from that point of view the win was nice, but the most important thing was a good performance and our first-half display was not good. 

“Thankfully, it improved substantially in the second-half.

“We weren’t in this competition for the past two years and any game you win gives confidence. Let us not fool ourselves here, though. January 31 (and the start of the league) is the important one.”

Collins also cited Mick Bohan’s influence, the former Dublin coach joining the Clare backroom team for the season ahead.

“He is doing really well and we are really happy with him. He has plenty experience.”

Meanwhile, Munster GAA chiefs have confirmed Cork’s McGrath Cup clash with Waterford has been re-fixed for Thursday night in Mallow (8pm).

  • Rory Kavanagh rejoined the Donegal panel and will be part of manager Rory Gallagher’s plans for the 2016 season.

The St Eunan’s midfielder opted to step down last January following a career that saw him wear the county colours on 132 occasions, with the last of his 49 championship appearances being the 2014 All-Ireland final loss to Kerry.

However, Gallagher, whose first year in charge of Donegal saw an Ulster final appearance against Monaghan before an All-Ireland quarter-final loss at the hands of Mayo, met with the 33-year-old in the close season to discuss a possible return.

Since then, Kavanagh has been working on a gym and running programme, and is set to join collective training. 

Kavanagh last night confirmed his return to Donegal Sport Hub, and will concentrate on training ahead of Donegal’s opening Allianz League Division One against Down in Newry on Saturday, January 30.

Kavanagh won three Ulster titles and the 2012 All-Ireland under Jim McGuinness.


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