TONY LEEN: Fitzmaurice not fretting over slides of March

It’s only a dozen years since Kerry kicked off the national league with four successive losses, but back in 2001 no-one was kicking them out of September equations for the foreseeable future. If they were, the white coats were never far away.

Two pointless games into Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s term as Kerry coach, and some are warning of the slides of March and of years of famine.

“I don’t pay them any heed,” Fitzmaurice said yesterday. “Sometimes I think some of the stuff that is written by people who would like it to be true, but I don’t think we are finished and I would not have taken the job if I thought this group were finished.”

However, two points tomorrow in Newbridge would release the pressure valve and though Fitzmaurice stressed yesterday the importance of a performance against two-from-two Kildare, he’d possibly forsake panache for points on this occasion.

“We have lost two games and there is no point in making excuses despite all the players we were missing because there were still 15 Kerry men going out to do battle with responsibilities and standards to uphold and we would not have been happy with how they played.

“But in terms of hysteria and panic I would not be worried about it, because I know there are a lot of very good footballers coming along. We are working towards the championship and we are blooding younger players now so that when it comes to the championship we can use them, and we are ensuring we are well conditioned for the championship.”

He’s tweaking things with the established veterans as well. Paul Galvin and Colm Cooper will be eased back with a late summer in mind. And Kieran Donaghy may have seen the last of his days on the edge of the opposition square. Though Kerry’s selections to date have — in keeping with other counties — not always been accurate, Donaghy’s selection at midfield this weekend may be a sign of things to come.

“In terms of leadership, it is very good for us to have Kieran out there,” Fitzmaurice told reporters. “He has spent years inside at full-forward where he had full-backs jumping on his back. There was a lot of pressure on him and people got on his back a bit about it. He is enjoying his football at midfield at the moment but there is nothing set in stone.”

Part of Donaghy’s problem at full-forward was that it was a blindingly obvious tactic that had to be pinpoint in its execution to continue working.

“In the first couple of years [after 2006] Kieran got measured ball and he was a nightmare to mark then because he has such awareness and he was so good in the air. But then as time went on, the ball was becoming more 50-50, it became a tough role to play as now most teams have a big strong physical full-back that was inside horsing with him and making it awkward.”

Admitting that aspects of the performance in the defeat by Dublin were “bizarre”, the Kerry coach reasoned that the poor scoring return was as much about being beaten at midfield as it was about poor attacking execution.

“We said before the start that the first two games were going to dictate whether the league was going to be about chasing a league semi-final spot or fighting off relegation. I do think the league is so competitive that all teams are going to take points off each other. Dublin are going well at the moment and you could say that they have five home games, because they are playing five games in Croke Park, and they will be very hard to beat. But if we could win Sunday we are right back in it.”

And another loss?

“We’ll probably will be in a relegation battle because we are heading up to Donegal the following weekend, a big ask again. But we are not going to be judged on February and March. Our methods are probably going to be questioned over the next couple of weeks if we lose a couple of more games, but the big thing we want this weekend is a performance – we just want the lads to have a go at it, have a cut at it, and see where that takes us.”


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