‘Far from perfect performance,’ admits Fitzmaurice
Kerry boss happy with win but adds Kingdom have plenty to work on
Galway manager Alan Mulholland and Kerry’s Eamonn Fitzmaurice at the final whistle at Croke Park yesterday. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
at down after watching his Kerry team post 1-20 in the wind and sunshine to qualify for an All-Ireland semi-final. Not a bad day’s work because this was the Kingdom and winning the whole schemozzle comes with the territory; the more pleasing points of the afternoon had to be judged against the trickier days ahead.
“I suppose it is satisfying to have won the game and it is great to be in an All-Ireland semi-final but it is far from the perfect performance,” Fitzmaurice acknowledged in his usual even-handed way.
“We have a good bit to work on for the next three weeks but you would have to be happy that we won the game. We mixed the good and the bad. There were times we weren’t as accurate as we would have liked. It was good shooting but there were aspects of our performance we will have to work with.”
Kerry looked to be sauntering away with this game, up 1-07 to 0-3, when Galway’s coltish young midfielder Thomas Flynn set off from the middle of the field and finished with a goal which will be remembered after he retires.
Maybe the aesthete in Fitzmaurice admired the goal but the former central defender in him was probably aghast at the space available through the heart of the Kingdom defence and the manager in him was determined to ensure that it wouldn’t reappear.
‘Disappointing’“Yeah, I would say the first one in particular was disappointing. We knew what Galway were capable of and Tom Flynn, now, he is athletic. But to get the ball from halfway and go though without a hand laid on him was disappointing.
“Look, we knew that there was going to be a good challenge from Galway. I think sometimes when you do press conferences before games it is often said you trot out clichés and are building up the opposition. But you are not. We weren’t overly surprised by the challenge. It looked for a while at the start that we were going to get away from them but after Flynn’s goal they had real belief.”
Down the touchline, Alan Mulholland was doing his best to draft plans to stop the various torments which James O’Donoghue was inflicting on the entire Galway back division. The Salthill man smiled when it was put to him that they might have dropped a man back to cover the Legions’ flier.
“Dunno if you noticed but we tried that a bit. They have very good movement and you are trying to double team him. They have very good movement and he is an exceptional footballer. I wouldn’t say he is unmarkable but he is an exceptional footballer.”
This defeat marked the close of a turbulent season for Galway, but one in which their form improved dramatically from mid-March. As Mulholland pointed out, not only have the maroon team not won a championship match in Croke Park since 2001, they have “played bugger all here since then too”.
Yesterday, they showed the Galway inclination to become emboldened by the place. After Michael Lundy’s goal, they played as if they could win this match for a 10-minute spell but a few wrong options were swiftly exploited by Kerry and a gap opened up on the scoreboard again.
Getting back to Croke Park is, Mulholland feels, crucial for Galway. But he nodded when asked if he felt this year was progressive for the team.
“The second part of the league was good for us. We have played five championship games. We played five last year. That is good experience. But to get to an quarter-final was not the height of our ambition.
“We know we have some talent and we don’t feel we are getting the recognition, but it is a results business and if you don’t get the results . . .”
As usual, he was asked to field the question thrown towards all resident managers bowing out of the championship. “I don’t know,” he said of his own future. “First I will see if I am wanted and then I will see if I want it.”