Outfought Kerry played on Dublin’s terms, says Eamonn Fitzmaurice

“Out-thought, outworked, and outfought,” conceded Éamonn Fitzmaurice.

The Kerry manager offered not a single excuse for the off-colour nature of his charges, accepting that his team had churned out their poorest display of the summer on the afternoon where it mattered most.

“We didn’t function,” he said, struggling somewhat to find the answers to why Kerry had failed to reach the heights scaled in previous Septembers — their 0-9 tally was the county’s lowest in an All-Ireland final since the 1965 defeat to Galway.

“We didn’t perform. Obviously, I am disappointed. The lads are disappointed. If you are going to win an All-Ireland final you have to turn up, you have to play. We didn’t do that today.

“Yeah it is,” Fitzmaurice replied when put to him that this had been their worst 70-minutes of the championship, “but you can be over hard on fellas as well, I’m actually very proud of the players, particularly with the way they went at it in the second half.

“We weren’t happy at half-time with the way we were doing things and the way we were playing. At least we had a go in the second half. Dublin were just better than us, simple as.

“You have to give a lot of credit to Dublin. They played it in such a way that you get the best of both worlds. They worked so hard up front. Their forwards worked so hard that when we were in possession they were slowing us down coming out of defence and at the same time getting bodies back, which was a very effective game-plan today. They were getting a man back, Denis Bastick was getting a man back to help Cian O’Sullivan. Cian was able to drop back in front of our full-forward line.

“We, in possession, weren’t as accurate or as clinical as we can be. We did OK, in fairness, without the ball, but in possession we would have been disappointed. When we look back on it we will accept that we did not function as well as we can up front. We took the wrong options at times. We didn’t execute as well as we can.”

Kerry had enjoyed a four-week lay-off arriving onto Jones Road yesterday, their opponents clearly benefiting from the semi-final replay against Mayo.

“You could say that. We benefited last year from the two games. I said it at the press conference before the All-Ireland that I felt it would benefit them. You can’t replicate that intensity in training.

“Coming up yesterday we were very happy with the way training had went, very happy with the way our preparations went. We felt there was a bigger performance in us but there wasn’t.”

0-8 to 0-4 in arrears at the interval, Fitzmaurice felt Kerry’s title challenge was still very much alive.

“I felt that if we played any bit at all in the second half that we’d have a chance to get back into it. But we didn’t do enough.

“They went up the field and got scores every time we got back at them. They were able to keep the scoreboard ticking over and that’s the hallmark of champions.”

Three adrift at the finish, the Kerry post-mortem is sure to focus in on a potential Kieran Donaghy penalty in the closing minutes.

“Apparently so. I haven’t seen it yet, but it looked as if he was pulled. You get those calls some days, you don’t get them other days. We’ve benefited from those calls on other days so you can’t complain about things like this.

“We needed to get a goal, it was as simple as that. [Killian Young’s effort] was a chance. It looked like we were going to struggle to peg them back with points. We had one or two opportunities and we didn’t take them.”

Colm Cooper’s struggles in attack encapsulated Kerry’s woes in the Dublin half of the field, the 32-year old rendered scoreless and spending much of the 70 minutes chasing Philly McMahon.

“I think that was down to Dublin having the ball and us turning over ball. If we were in possession and if we had the ball and were getting Colm on the ball where we wanted him to be on the ball and getting Philly McMahon defending him we’d have been playing the game on our terms, but for a lot of the first half we had to play on Dublin’s terms and Colm just ended up chasing Philly McMahon.

“It was an obvious tactic, he’s done it in the other games and he’s very good at it. It was effective today. It was about having your hands on the ball. We didn’t have our hands on enough ball today.”

Even though a handful of his players are moving towards retirement age, Fitzmaurice believes each one is capable of another season in the green and gold.

“Physically, there’s no reason that they can’t continue. They’re all in tremendous shape. It’s whether, with regard to where they’re at in their lives and lifestyles, if they’re willing to make the sacrifices and if that hunger is there.

“Often times losing an All-Ireland final is the thing that gives that hunger a huge edge again. I would hope that most of them would stay on.”

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