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Wednesday 12 December 2018

Fitz' 'excited' by the future

Kerry boss bullish after senior and minor wins

LAST year in his post-All-Ireland final media conference, Jim Gavin broke the world record for manager-speak when he surmised that, on account of just having won the 2013 Championship, Dublin were already behind potential suitors for their crown in their preparations for 2014.

Turns out, Éamonn Fitzmaurice is carved from a similar block of wood.

"I remember even the night I was watching The Sunday Game in Kerry and I remember him saying that other teams around the country were making plans for next year already," he recalled yesterday, looking remarkably fresh on the morning-after-the-All-Ireland-before.

"The thoughts start to turn over to next year. Having Colm (Cooper) back in harness again, the growth of those young fellas this year and how much this experience will help them.

"The winter together, we'll have a team holiday, that'll make them tighter again. Good minor team, some of those young lads coming up. So it's very exciting time to be involved in Kerry football."

Fitzmaurice was positive about the immediate future then, and understandably so. The stat of choice going into Sunday's All-Ireland decider was that nine of the Kerry starters were playing in their first, the greatest smattering of final virgins since 1997.

They're young, very clearly talented, and they've now relieved themselves of the All-Ireland duck.

Eager

By the time they wipe the sleep from their eyes sometime in the middle of next spring, Colm Cooper will be back, fully healed and eager to drive on.

According to Fitzmaurice, there's a "good chance," Tommy Walsh will be available having ended his four-year stint in Australia but you got the feeling from the way he said it, Walsh's repatriation his all but confirmed.

Just as importantly, no-one, Fitzmaurice predicted, from the current team is going anywhere in a hurry.

"One of two of the older lads might be thinking about it," he said, of the potential for retirement. "With Declan (O'Sullivan) he'll get his knees sorted out, he'll be fine physically. Aidan (O'Mahony) is fine physically, Marc (Ó Sé) is fine physically. Kieran Donaghy is only 31. I think if their personal lives allow them to, there's no reason that they won't keep going.

"But I think with that decision, it comes down a lot to can they go again," he added.

"Can they do as much as we did this year? We'll have to try to come up with something different. I think a lot of it comes down to their personal lives more so than anything else."

It helps, of course, that they have a manager who has now fully proven himself adept in deciphering and decoding the most sophisticated systems in Gaelic football, not necessarily a skill for which recent Kerry managers have been renowned.

Indeed what makes this Kerry team and Fitzmaurice all the more remarkable was not that they turned on the customary Kingdom style when they could during the summer, but that they found and mastered a way to beat a team designed and hardened over four years around the principles of constriction.

Or, in other words, conceived with exactly the likes of Kerry in mind.

Kerry selector and 70s icon Mikey Sheedy said yesterday: "I'd say Jim Gavin was scratching his head yesterday thinking his team probably would have beaten both teams that played." But that wasn't exactly the point.

Kerry have suffered more than anyone over the past decade-and-a-half at the hands of Ulster's most in-vogue teams, a source of much local chagrin, but that didn't seem to enter Fitzmaurice's thinking.

Satisfying

"Funny, it wasn't a thing I thought about," he insisted.

"Donegal were in our way and that was all it was. When you look at those Tyrone and Armagh teams they beat us on the day fair-and-square.

"One of the most satisfying aspects of yesterday was All-Irelands have been won and we have played very well and on our terms," he added.

"Whereas yesterday we had to play a slightly different game than we normally play and to win that way was very satisfying."

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