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Monday 20 August 2018

Fitzmaurice makes exit: 'I've a box full of anonymous letters'

Ran out of time: Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Ran out of time: Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

The search has begun for a candidate willing to shoulder the burden of managing Kerry, with Eamonn Fitzmaurice relieving himself of the cross after a comfortable but futile win in Killarney on Saturday.

Former senior manager Jack O'Connor is believed to be at the top of the queue to take over in the hot-seat again.

In his parting words there was evidence that criticism had taken its toll. He leaves with one All-Ireland title from 2014, a National League win in 2017 and six years of unbroken dominance in Munster.

In most counties that would amount to an abundance of riches but Kerry isn't like most counties. This was the first time they failed to reach the All-Ireland semi-finals in Fitzmaurice's time in charge, and only the third time Kerry failed to do since 2000.

Having lost to Galway and been extremely fortunate to draw in Clones, they were relying on a favourable result in Salthill, but Monaghan's clearcut victory ruled out a Kerry presence in the semi-finals in Croke Park next weekend.

The match had plenty of talking points and provided considerable entertainment given the already doomed Kildare's reduced motives.

But the Fitzmaurice decision, with two years left to run on his term, dominated post-match reflections.

"I was telling players I have been in the job for six years. I've given it everything I have. I think there is very good foundations there for the future.

Direction

"I think a change of voice and a change of direction will be good. I also think by taking me out of the equation, it can remove some of the over the top negativity that was coming at the team, which I feel was unfair."

Fitzmaurice has been criticised for being overly cautious in selection, and relying excessively on older players, but this year saw him blood seven newcomers in the championship.

One of those, David Clifford, was immense again on Saturday, leading the forward line at 19 years-of-age for the third game in succession. Having saved them in Clones with a stoppage time goal, he scored 2-6 against Kildare, 1-5 from play, although the second goal was gifted by Mark Donnellan when the Kildare goalkeeper lost possession to Seán O'Shea and Clifford kicked to an empty net a minute after half-time.

Kildare led 1-12 to 1-6 when Neil Flynn was controversially sent off approaching half-time after an incident with Killian Young, which drew a strong response from Kildare manager Cian O'Neill afterwards.

O'Neill's exasperation was justified; it looked a severe call.

"It is just embarrassing when you see mistakes like that at this level," stated O'Neill, who was also unhappy over Daniel Flynn's red card in the Galway match which saw him miss the Kerry game.

"There was contact, it was definitely a yellow card because he came in late, but as I said, and I understand the rules quite well, definitely no striking. It's just a shocking decision from whomever had the ultimate call."

But the night was about the departure of the Kerry manager. "I've a box full of anonymous letters," said Fitzmaurice when asked about some of the criticism that had come his way.

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