Five members of the Kerry team to start last year’s All-Ireland final will sit out Saturday’s rematch against Dublin through injury, manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice revealed last night.
Colm Cooper, who underwent minor shoulder surgery before Christmas, had been expected to feature for Kerry’s opening league fixture, but Fitzmaurice has ruled the 32-year old out of the equation for the trip to Croke Park. Aidan O’Mahony is another who won’t be travelling, the Kerry defender sidelined with an eye injury.
Further confirmed absentees this weekend include Marc Ó Sé, Kieran Donaghy (basketball) and Bryan Sheehan (club). Long-term casualties Anthony Maher (hip), James O’Donoghue (shoulder), Paul Geaney (back), Kieran O’Leary (Achilles), and Mikey Geaney (back) are not forecast to return until March; early April the target for O’Donoghue.
2015 captain Donaghy is involved with St Brendan’s in this Saturday’s national intermediate cup basketball final and won’t be returning to the Kerry set-up until after their second round fixture against Roscommon.
“Kieran played a lot of football last year, right up until the middle of December with Stacks, and he just didn’t have the appetite really to get back on the pitch yet,” commented Fitzmaurice.
“That is understandable. It will be full steam ahead for him when he comes back on the Tuesday after the Roscommon game.
“The basketball was very good for him over the winter, but too much can be made of the basketball. He played basketball and he enjoyed the basketball, but he also worked very hard in the gym during the winter.
“Physically, he is in very good shape. The basketball was a distraction from the football over the winter which was probably good from the point of view of mental freshness. He is definitely showing the fruits of all his work.”
Marc Ó Sé, though not injured, will not tog out for either of the Dublin or Roscommon games, an indication that the 35-year old, who was plagued by injury towards the tail end of last year’s championship, will be eased back into competitive action. His presence alone, for the time being, is sufficient.
“I am delighted Marc and Aidan [O’Mahony] did stay on board. The leadership they have been giving in training, the example they set for the younger players with the way they train and look after themselves is incredible. You couldn’t have two better role models and we were only commenting again at the weekend that without them, there would be a hole in the set-up. It is a tribute to both of them.
“There wasn’t too much coaxing, to be honest. I met both of them a couple of times. I put my cards on the table and they put their cards on the table. They needed time to think and I gave them time to think.”
Having failed to qualify for the knockout stages during his first three years at the helm, Fitzmaurice rubbished the suggestion that he has no interest in spring silverware. And while he lamented their crowded sickbay, he’s relishing how newcomers to the panel will handle the step up in class — U21 pair Tom O’Sullivan and Briain Ó Beaglaoich could see action at GAA HQ.
“There is a perception out there that we have no interest in the league. Circumstances dictate that at the start of the year, we are often down bodies, lads coming back late or club involvements, which we have had every year.
“We have learned over the last couple of years that [the earlier rounds] can be tough going. Trying to get that balance of wanting to win but also giving new lads their chance is what makes it enjoyable. It is a good challenge. If you are just going with the same team the whole time, there are limitations to that.”
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