Early Kerry wins a bonus for Fitzmaurice’s spring campaign
Introducing new talent and strengthening squad is Kerry manager’s priority
Mayo’s Brendan Harrison attempts to get to grips with Kerry’s Paul Geaney on Saturday night in McHale Park. Photograph: Inpho/John McVitty
Some nine seasons have passed since Kerry last won their opening two games of the league. In his first season as manager, Éamonn Fitzmaurice had to demonstrate his patience during a win-less, three-game streak during which Kerry looked like relegation fodder.
He didn’t panic then and on Saturday night in Castlebar, he was careful to put time and place in context: February, the sorting period, all that. But still, the grit that Kerry displayed, with 13 men to hold an experienced Mayo side anxious to rescue the game, felt significant.
“I dunno was it comfortable now, but it was great to get the win and the performance. The big thing tonight was for the youngsters to be exposed to that kind of a battle against a seasoned team. But any time you get a win it is great and especially when you get a win on the road. Happy with aspects of the performance but we have a lot to work on.”
You can’t be getting cards left, right and centre, and being down to 13 men, the lads showed great character
They got out of jail in regard to the fouls within scoring range they committed late on. Nine nights out of 10, Mayo’s sharpshooters would have eaten into the four-point deficit. Seven yellows – and two reds as a consequence – and one black card were issued in what was a tough physical battle from the outset and the game became more and more of an arm-wrestle as the stakes were raised.
“It did but if you want to survive in this Division One world you have to be able for that stuff and the lads were. It is something we are going to have to work on. You can’t be getting cards left, right and centre, and being down to 13 men, the lads showed great character. The second yellows I don’t think we could complain about. Brian Begley’s black card was possibly a bit harsh.”
The other issue for Kerry was the early departure of David Clifford with a hamstring injury. Fitzmaurice is optimistic that it is a minor concern but admitted that the Sigerson duties of his college players make this a tricky time of year. It was well documented that Saturday night marked Clifford’s third match in seven days. Seán O’Shea and Jason Foley had also both played for UCC during the week.
“He [Clifford] gave his hamstring a bit of tweak. The pitch was heavy out there so it was unfortunate. We are hoping it is nothing too serious. We got him off straight away and hope it wasn’t too bad. The scheduling isn’t ideal. There is going to be a bit of management in it from now on. The lads are monitored very closely in terms of their load – what they are doing with us and their colleges – so we are going to have be careful. The players’ welfare is always number one in our thing.”
If we lose along the way we won’t be too worried. We just want to be sure that by the end of the league we have a really strong squad
His options are curtailed by a significant injury list featuring established names but he admitted that even if he had a full squad to choose from, he would still be running the eye over Kerry’s exciting new generation.
“If we lose along the way we won’t be too worried. We just want to be sure that by the end of the league we have a really strong squad. It has started well but it is tough again next week. We are up the road up to Iniskeen, and Monaghan beat us smartly last year, so we know all about that.”