No 'shadow boxing' in Dubs clash, insists Fitzmaurice
Published 22/04/2016 | 02:30
Back in the first round of the League, Dublin turned over Kerry in Croke Park.
After more than four months of ruminating on the All-Ireland final, Kerry were meant to lay down a marker that would at least move the conversation on from Dublin's almost total dominance of the previous September's All-Ireland final. Things didn't, however, go to plan.
"You would think it was us that had won the All-Ireland and Dublin that had lost it because of the levels of hunger that they showed that night and I think they have been that way throughout the League," Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice reflects now.
Kerry were not long off the plane for that game, returning from a team holiday well into the new year. They would lose to Roscommon a week later to continue their almost customary slow start to the League.
However, the break in the League came at the right time and gave them a chance to catch up on the work they missed out on.
Fitzmaurice took his side to train on Banna beach one weekend. It wasn't exactly the 'MiWadi and biscuits' moment the Clare hurlers had during their successful 2013 Championship campaign but it helped closed the gap on the rest. Since then, they have won six games on the bounce.
In that Dublin game, they shipped two goals but in 420 minutes since then, they have conceded just three more.
"I am very happy with the way the defence is playing," said Fitzmaurice. "Of course if you are not conceding goals you're winning games. It's not a coincidence, if you're shutting it down at the back you're making it harder for other teams."
There are other bright spots. Darran O'Sullivan has looked sharp since his return from injury and bar Anthony Maher and James O'Donoghue, Kerry will be fully loaded come Sunday afternoon.
And Fitzmaurice insists there will be no "shadow boxing" this weekend.
"They're unbeaten in League and Championship since the last time we beat them in the League in Killarney in March 2015, that's a 21-game run, which is a huge amount of games," he said.
"Since Jim Gavin has taken over they've won 8 of the 9 trophies that really matter, Leinster Championship, National League and All-Ireland Championship. So of course it's a huge game but it's a great game for us.
"There's no shadow boxing, it's a big game in Croke Park the fact that there's 1916 celebrations on as well adds a bit of glamour to it.
"It's a game we want to win and it's a game we're going up to win."