Colm Parkinson: The "animals" in Kerry should remember a few things before they say any more
"I did feel over the last few weeks that the fact I have been there for six years, maybe I was a bit of a lightning rod for criticism and I was drawing criticism into the group. I didn’t like the fact that some of our younger players were going around the county and there was a negative atmosphere"
Eamonn Fitzmaurice after resigning on Saturday.
In 2014, Fitzmaurice went against Kerry tradition and played 2 sweepers against Donegal in the All-Ireland final. Kerry won and he was hailed a tactical genius. The analysis was that, finally, Kerry had a manager who was flexible tactically which was required in the modern game where defensive systems had taken over.
Fast forward to 2018, he used one sweeper against a dangerous Galway full forward line in Croke Park. Remember, Galway play a defensive, counter-attacking system similar to Donegal's in 2014. This time, Kerry lost and, suddenly, he hasn’t a clue.
Incidentally, a tactically astute Dublin are sure to use a sweeper against Galway this Saturday evening.
Fitzmaurice went on to reveal he has "a box full of anonymous letters” at home. We know the Kerry public are demanding but sometimes you’d wonder are they living in cloud cuckoo land. But this is Kerry we’re talking about, as the great Páidi Ó Sé correctly described as "the roughest type of f****** animals you could ever deal with”.
— Joe McMahon (@Bigjoemc) August 5, 2018
When does ‘demanding’ turn into arrogant disrespect?
Some Kerry supporters left Fitzgerald Staduim before the final whistle as their county beat Kildare on Saturday night. They travel in tiny numbers to Croke Park other than an All-Ireland final. While I’m a big fan of Kerry football, this type of behaviour has to be called out.
Fitzmaurice has managed Kerry during a time we’ve seen Dublin’s greatest ever team emerge. This Dublin team could surpass the great Kerry team of the 80s as the most dominant team in the history of Gaelic football. They have been second best to Dublin during Fitzmaurice’s time but where is the shame in that? Who hasn’t been second best to Dublin?
In fact, since Jim Gavin took over as Dublin manager in 2013, the same season as Eamonn took over the reigns in Kerry, they have only failed to win one league and one All-Ireland. Those two titles belong to Kerry.
They narrowly lost to Dublin in 2013 in one of the greatest games we’ve ever seen. Fitzmaurice had converted Gooch Cooper to centre forward and he ran the show in the first half before Dublin put Cian O’Sullivan on him and closed Kerry down.
In 2015, Kerry lost to Dublin in the All-Ireland final. They didn’t perform on the day in the final but only lost by three points to what was, for me, Dublin’s best team under Jim Gavin.
In 2016 they beat Dublin in the national league final and later that year in the championship they lost by only two points after having the Dubs in all sorts of trouble at half time. They pushed up on Stephen Cluxton's kickouts in a manner we never saw before. Defenders abandoned their men and pushed up into zones, confusing Cluxton who had a mini meltdown before half time. Dublin now use this tactic on opposition kickouts.
While we are currently in the middle of Dublin’s golden generation for football, you absolutely couldn't say the same for Kerry during Fitzmaurice’s rein. In fact, the hand he was dealt was an awful one.
— The GAA Hour (@TheGAAHour) August 6, 2018
The breakup of the great Kerry team that won the All-Ireland in 2009 was well underway when he took over in August 2012. Kerry had lost the All-Ireland final in 2011 and were beaten by Donegal in 2012. Heading into the 2014 season, Kerry footballers would be without players of the calibre of Paul Galvin, Tomas Ó Sé, Darragh Ó Sé, Tom O'Sullivan, Mike McCarthy, Tommy Griffin, Tadhg Kennelly, who all won Kerry’s last All-Ireland in 2009.
So who were replacing these legends?
Kerry had only won one Munster U21 title in the previous TEN years. That’s an incredible stat.
In 2011, Kerry U21s lost to Cork by 2-24 to 0-8. On the Kerry team that day were Brian Kelly, Peter Crowley, Mark Griffin, Jack Sherwood, Jonathan Lyne, James O’Donoghue, BJ Keane, Stephen O’Brien, Paul Geaney and Daithi Casey - all players who would all feature in the championship during Fitzmaurice’s tenure
In fact, five of these players started the 2014 All-Ireland final and one came on as a substitute as Kerry won the All-Ireland and just three years earlier they were losing to Cork by 22 points.
It’s ironic now that Kerry finally have their own golden generation and Fitzmaurice is gone while a new manager will benefit.
Pat Spillane said on Sunday night:
"Rebuilding should have taken place two years ago, not this year, even though his legacy will be seven youngsters.”
Yes, seven youngsters were brought in this year but only David Clifford was brought straight in from minor. They were only ready this year. Is Fitzmaurice now being blamed for not rushing minors straight into the senior team? That’s not the Kerry way.
Most players need a year at U21 before they play senior and even then they need a few years to become dominant senior footballers.
Laois had our own golden generation in the late 1990s.
We won two All-Ireland minors and lost a third in three years between 1996 and ‘98. In 1998, seven of us from the U21s played on the senior team. We beat Westmeath in Croke Park but then came up against a seasoned Kildare team who gave us a lesson. It was men against boys. It was five years later, in 2003, as 23/24 year olds before we were properly ready to backbone the team.
Tyrone also had to wait until 2003 for their first All-Ireland from a golden generation around the same time as ours.
For me, Fitzmaurice was an excellent manager.
He wasn’t the greatest interviewee - he was a more charming version of Jim Gavin in that respect - but he did a brilliant job considering the hand he was dealt. Of course he made mistakes on the line but what manager hasn’t? Remember Jim Gavin, a brilliant manager, frozen on the line in 2014, making no changes to his system as Donegal hammered Dublin. The great Mick O’Dwyer only made substitutions if we were winning easily or being hammered. He also froze on the line during close games.
No manager, even the greats, tick all the boxes - that’s what a good backroom team is for.
Dignified as ever, Fitzmaurice said on Saturday:
"With a new man in charge, it will hopefully afford him a bit of time and space, a bit of patience within our own county to allow them to develop to their full potential.”
The animals should remember that before they pick up a pen.