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Saturday 3 December 2016

Fitz urged to stay ... veterans set to quit

Kerry boss Éamonn Fitzmaurice must decide on his future. Photo: Sportsfile
Kerry boss Éamonn Fitzmaurice must decide on his future. Photo: Sportsfile

Will he or won't he? That's the big and still unresolved question in the Kingdom this week - will Éamonn Fitzmaurice stay on as Kerry manager or call time on his reign after four eventful seasons?

Fitzmaurice's original three-year term ended with last year's All-Ireland final defeat, and now the 12-month extension quickly agreed in last September's aftermath has expired too.

The man who led Kerry to a surprise All-Ireland triumph in 2014 kicked to touch when asked about his future in the immediate wake of Sunday's semi-final defeat to Dublin.

However, given the uplift in Kerry's performance when measured against their tepid submission to the Dubs in 2015, the suspicion is that if Fitzmaurice wants to stay for another year, he'll be granted that opportunity.

Soon after the final whistle, Pat Spillane speculated on The Sunday Game Live that the Finuge man would quit. However, Fitzmaurice's former Kerry teammate, Dara Ó Cinnéide, has urged management to do otherwise. "It would be an absolute shame if they were to walk away now," Ó Cinnéide told RTÉ.

"This management group have maximised the talent that's there; managed, what was in 2012, looking like a very difficult period of transition. It's totally a decision for themselves but if they're ready and willing I think they should stay on," he added.

That view was echoed by Jack O'Shea who said: "He has to take great credit for what he has done with this Kerry team. Okay, they haven't beaten Dublin but he's built a really good side."

Moreover, according to Ó Cinnéide, the current management set-up remains "the best that's out there. I don't think the alternatives are in place, and that might take a year or two."

The most touted alternative is Jack O'Connor, frequently linked with a third coming as Kerry boss after guiding his county to back-to-back minor All-Irelands in 2014 and '15.

However, after being pipped to this year's Munster U21 title by Cork, O'Connor might well fancy another crack at that age grade before it reverts to an U20 competition in 2018.

Whatever happens in the Kerry hotseat, player retirements are now seen as inevitable after this ageing squad fell just two points shy of Dublin.

Aidan O'Mahony and Marc Ó Sé, both now 36, are viewed as near-certainties to call time on their stellar careers. Kieran Donaghy, whose autobiography is due for release in October, is three years younger but is also expected to bow out.

However, Kerry observers believe that fellow 33-year-old Colm Cooper might be convinced to stay on for another season.

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