GAA: Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice says he didn't gamble with Kieran Donaghy
Last Updated: 01/09/14 1:35pm
Eamonn Fitzmaurice and Kerry selector Diarmuid Murphy during the closing stages of their win over Mayo
Think back to that day in Portlaoise when Colm Cooper, wearing the colours of Dr Crokes, collapsed under the attentions of Castlebar men to end all football for a year.
The conventional wisdom went that if Cooper was done, so too was Kerry football.
Eamonn Fitzmaurice held his counsel, shook off a few underwhelming league results and shaped and tailored a team to destroy a fancied Cork team in the Munster final, see off Galway in a shoot-out and now come through an epic blood-and-thunder series against Mayo.
ALL-IRELAND SFC FINAL
Kerry v Donegal
Sunday, September 21
Live on Sky Sports
Late on Saturday Fitzmaurice spoke about a thrilling extra-time win as calmly as if he were giving a history class in Dingle, never losing sight of the main point.
“Where does it rate? It was fantastic over the two days but it is hard to say where it rates.
“There were aspects we can improve on, particularly right there at the end, but the lads made sure to give me a right testing there at the end when we were three points up and turned over two balls coming out.
“That should never happen at that stage, particularly against a team like Mayo who can get a goal from nothing as they showed in other parts of the game.
“It would have been hard to stomach it if they had managed to get a goal.”
Fitzmaurice made two big calls before throw-in, starting Kieran Donaghy and holding Marc O’Se in reserve. After 20 minutes he had restored the Ventry man to full service and kept Donaghy on the field through the gruelling extra time.
“I don’t think it was a gamble,” said Fitzmaurice. “We discussed it and I was excited by going after the game.
"Kieran created havoc once it was a decent ball going in. He went for it hell to leather and he just put himself in the picture. He saved us the last day and had a massive game today."
“He created havoc once it was a decent ball going in. He went for it hell to leather and he just put himself in the picture. He saved us the last day and had a massive game today. ”
For Mayo all motivations ended with the final whistle. When you lose a match like that the world just stops. Tears and silence set the mood: nobody was talking about next season yet.
“Nah, we can barely speak in there,” admitted James Horan. “So there is not too much being said. But they are a serious bunch of guys. You can see the leaders in there. They will come back stronger.”
If they do it will be without the guidance of the Ballintubber man. His four years in charge produced a ferociously driven and honest team with endless heart but still no All-Ireland.
Perhaps his lasting legacy will be his success in changing the mindset within Mayo. The quest for a first All-Ireland since 1951 has become intense and relentless rather than wishful.
Horan nodded when asked in the end if perhaps, for all the honesty, there was still something missing.
“Maybe sometimes you get beaten by a better team and you just have to take it on the chin,” he said. “But this group has learned and improved all the time, and if that trend continues then time is the only factor.”
Watch the All-Ireland final between Kerry and Donegal live on Sky Sports on September 21