Fitzmaurice concerned but not worried

Poor League form still a worry for the Kingdom

Allianz Football League Division 1, St. Conleth's Park, Newbridge, Co. Kildare 3/3/2013Kildare vs KerryKerry manager Eamonn FitzmauriceMandatory Credit �INPHO/Cathal Noonan

Allianz Football League Division 1, St. Conleth's Park, Newbridge, Co. Kildare 3/3/2013Kildare vs KerryKerry manager Eamonn FitzmauriceMandatory Credit �INPHO/Cathal Noonan


With Down coming to Tralee this Saturday – fresh from their win over Mayo – then Cork and Tyrone to finish, only a complete reversal of form will see Kerry survive, because so far form has gone from bad, to a little better, back to bad again.

Sunday’s nine-point loss to Donegal in Ballybofey leaves them rooted to the bottom of the division, the only team yet to secure any points: one last consolation for Fitzmaurice is players such Declan O’Sullivan, Anthony Maher, Bryan Sheehan, Paul Galvin and Colm “Gooch” Cooper all missed the game – either through injury, or, in Cooper’s case, to allow some recharging of the batteries.

Now, Tomás Ó Sé joins the list of absentees, his straight red card just four minutes into the second half of Sunday’s game automatically ruling him out of Saturday evening (and possibly longer). Younger brother Marc sustained a worrying hip injury in the game and remains a doubt, as does Kieran Donaghy, who picked up a knock late on.

Back on board
What is certain is Fitzmaurice is keen to get those men back on board sooner rather than later, although it seems he will be sticking with his original intention of allowing Cooper sit out the league.

“Well, maybe it’s something we’ll look at during the week,” he said. “Still, we’re not going to panic, there is still the bigger picture there.

“We’ll have wait and see about a few players, the likes of Paul (Galvin) and Declan (O’Sullivan). Paul does have a bit of a hamstring problem, so we’ll have to see.

“Anthony Maher might be okay, but then we hoped he’d have made the Donegal game. We’ll just have to wait and see how things are later in the week. But this Down game is huge. They’re still scrapping for points as well, but we’re at home, and we’ll have improve, big time.”

Ideally, Fitzmaurice would give all those prominent players as much time as needed to ease their way back, but the younger, new players just don’t seem to be up to the task yet. It’s one thing to go about a rebuilding process, but if the necessary bricks aren’t lying around, it can become a futile exercise.

“We’ve known all along we’ve a lot of work to do,” added Fitzmaurice, conscious too that whatever improvements his team did show against Kildare the previous week quickly disappeared in bitterly cold Ballybofey.

Still there
“All along I’ve been saying that once you get two points on the board you’re still there, he said, “and it might get the bit of momentum going. But a lot of teams down around the bottom still have to play each other yet, so there are still a lot of points up for grabs.”

Cooper, who last week admitted he’d “no big injury problem” but just wanted to “mentally recharge the batteries a little bit, because when you do go back it will be full tilt” is the most conspicuous absentee, given Kerry’s most glaring problem appears to be among the forwards.

Darran O’Sullivan managed a single point on Sunday, with Johnny Buckley’s 0-3 (including one free) completing their entire forwards total, and it remains to be seen if even Cooper can sufficiently address that paltry return.

For Donegal, meanwhile, back-to-back wins move them into fourth, poised already for one of the semi-final berths, and safe, at least for now, from relegation. Not that manager Jim McGuinness was losing any sleep over that prospect anyway.

“Nah, I really think that sort of talk only comes from ye journalists, and your point of view. Because it does seem to come up every week. We’ve done this the last number of years, stay true to ourselves. We know what we want to get out of the league.

“Right now, we know we’re not what we want to be, in terms of the conditioning, but we came back to the training very, very late, and it’s all about trying to build towards the summer, build the squad, and look at players, and look at what we want to do. We’re building players’ fitness along the way as well, and that’s the most important thing.”

Kerry’s three remaining league fixture are: Saturday, v Down, Tralee; March 24th, v Cork, Tralee; April 7th, v Tyrone, Omagh.