Monday 29 December 2014

Fitzmaurice: We must tighten defence for Mayo test

Published 04/08/2014 | 02:30

Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice (right) and Galway manager Alan Mulholland shake hands after the All-Ireland quarter-final between their sides at Croke Park. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice (right) and Galway manager Alan Mulholland shake hands after the All-Ireland quarter-final between their sides at Croke Park. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

The mood music for All-Ireland quarter-finals doesn't often change unless there is an exceptional case like Kerry in 2009, Dublin in 2011 or Mayo last year.

Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice found himself saying much the same things in the same room as he had said 12 months earlier when his side had beaten Cavan.

Yes they were improving, yes they did things well, but yes, they have a lot of improvement to make over the next three weeks, if they wanted to keep progressing.

"It's great to be into an All-Ireland semi-final again this year," he reflected.

"But it was far from the perfect performance. We have a good bit to work on for the next three weeks."

They had picked off 1-18 from play out of a 1-20 total which was a good return, but again the endless quest for perfection took over in his analytical mind.

"We mixed the good with the bad," said Fitzmaurice. "There was some good attacking football. Other times, we weren't quite as accurate as we would have liked. But it's good shooting."

Some of their defending, particularly for the goals, allowed him to pick up pace.

"I think the first goal in particular was disappointing. We know what Galway are capable of doing. Tom Flynn is athletic and he has good pace. But for him to get the ball on the half-way line and get through without a hand being put on him is something we have to work on," he said.

His rival Alan Mulholland acknowledged dealing with the Kerry corner-forwards presented a conundrum they couldn't resolve.

They had used a sweeper in front of O'Donoghue for a time but eventually had to chase the game and that left gaps.

"They've got very good movement so you're trying to stop the ball getting into him in the first place and you're trying to double-team him when he's in there," he said of O'Donoghue.

"He's an exceptional footballer, he's got great pace and great control. I wouldn't say he's unmarkable. We have a good full-back line, probably the best we've had in a while, and we struggled today. So I'll leave it to somebody else to try and figure that one out."

He conceded that their start had crippled them.

"You can't give Kerry a head start (1-5 to 0-0) and we gave them it. Some of the wides, I wouldn't criticise our lads for the shooting. They were difficult chances. Maybe the decision-making at times (was poor). We could have worked the ball a little bit more, got ourselves into better shooting positions but Kerry are defending well this year."

Mulholland was non committal about his future – his three year term is up – but felt progress has been made.

"Performances improved dramatically. We have played five championship games. We played five last year and in the years prior to that we hadn't come close. Ten championship games in two years is good experience but, to be honest, to get to an All-Ireland quarter-final wasn't the height of our ambition this year. So we are disappointed to come off that without progressing.

"We know within the group that we have some talent there and we don't feel like we are getting the recognition but it is a results business and if you don't get the results you don't get the recognition. So it is a little bit frustrating."

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