League success ‘big boost’ for Kerry going into future meetings
Fitzmaurice defends prematch comments about Dublin’s physicality after tight victory
In a prematch press conference, Kerry manager Éamonn Fitzmaurice cited a number of examples of what he described as Dublin’s “hard edge”. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Éamonn Fitzmaurice entered the labyrinth of psychological warfare yet survived to tell the tale.
The Kerry manager navigated safe passage through these perilous Dublin shoulders, and on into the open water of summer as National League champions.
But Fitzmaurice has clearly grasped the value of public utterances, and the control it affords him when his chief rival is also at it. Or perceived to be so.
“I didn’t think it was as incident packed as the game in Tralee.
“Yeah, look, I said what I said during the week. I wanted to provoke debate. I succeeded in provoking debate. Whereas I think if I hadn’t said something, which I would have preferred to be honest because I would just prefer to focus on the football, there wouldn’t have been a debate so from my point of view it was mission accomplished.
“There were incidents but I don’t think there was any negative undercurrent there today.”
In a prematch press conference, Fitzmaurice cited a number of examples of what he described as Dublin’s “hard edge”.
He was asked if the primary aim of last Tuesday’s press conference was to ensure the officials were not unduly influenced by what he felt was a growing perception that his Kerry team were a gang of rough-necks (which they are, like Dublin, whenever they need to be).
“I felt that if I didn’t say something the narrative for the week was that Kerry were overly physical in Tralee and that’s the only way they can compete with Dublin. Then you possibly won’t get any break anywhere from anyone. So I just wanted to point out, as I think you all know and understand because you see the lads as often as anyone that they are an unbelievable football team but they know what they have to do as well.
“I’d prefer not to be going back into it. I said what I said on Tuesday. It’s water under the bridge at this stage.”
When the same topic was put to Dublin manager Jim Gavin, he refused to speak “ill” of Fitzmaurice or Kerry. Not that anyone asked him to.
These managers, both men of integrity, clamp down on any opportunity they see beneath the surface. And neither will let go until winning is achieved. That is the ancient rivalry and considering no Kerry footballer is made for defeat, he can be destroyed but not defeated, this has proved an awfully long era of suffering since their last championship victory over Dublin came way back in 2009.
“It’s not as if we are the only team that has struggled against them,” said Fitzmaurice. “They are one of the best teams that has ever played the game. I think there is a consensus on that. We’ve been very, very close to them the last couple of years, maybe not in the league, but particularly in championship.
“For the belief of the players themselves it will be a big boost.”
Imagine Dean Rock’s free had sailed over instead of hitting the post. Imagine Dublin had grown into extra-time and held Kerry under once again. Would this young team been able to recover in time for a September reloading to face a seemingly unbeatable foe?
“I think you are kind of portraying that there is this psychological damage there and that every time [Kerry lose to Dublin] we are going down the road banging our head off the window of the bus.
“We come out and give it everything we have. We have come up short but we have come up short going at them, bringing the best out of them; the Kerry-Dublin games have been some of the best games that have been played in the last 10 years.
“If Dublin had beaten us today it wouldn’t have been the end of the world, we still have players to come back, it’s still the month of April, there is a lot of work to be done for championship.”