'This is the game we've been waiting for since September' - Eamonn Fitzmaurice
Fitzmaurice fired up as Kingdom look to turn tide of Dublin victories
Published 26/08/2016 | 02:30
Kerry need to play to their potential, rather than pull some tactical switch out of left field, in order for them to see off Dublin, according to Kingdom manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice.
Much has been made of some of Kerry's recent performances against the Dubs that has seen the champions win their last three championship meetings as well as this year's league decider.
Jim Gavin's men scorched off into the distance late in that game after Kerry had been reduced to 14 men. But it was the no-show in the All-Ireland decider last year that most disappoints Fitzmaurice.
"We need to play at our potential," said the Kerry manager.
"I don't think we need anything dramatic from left field. We'll have to play better than we have played the last couple of times.
"I would use last year's All-Ireland final as more of a yardstick than the league final. And on that day, as we've said before, we were flat and we didn't perform.
"And we rode our luck a bit. But we were still there at the end. When a small bit of a rub of the green maybe we could have pulled a draw out of it.
"But I think we had used up our luck in the Munster final, where we were lucky to get out of it with a draw.
"So we need to be better. Look, with Dublin - they're an outstanding team. And if you're going to beat them, you're going to have to be at your best."
Fitzmaurice admitted that Kerry have effectively been lining this game up all year.
"I think it's always been on the horizon for us. But you have to be very careful. And you have to treat all the other games with the utmost of care.
"We were professional in the three games we've played previously.
"Obviously there was that carrot on the horizon for us ... our first aim when we get to the championship always is to win the Munster Championship, which we did. And we knew then at that stage if we kept winning, the likelihood is that Dublin were going to keep winning and we'd be playing them in an All-Ireland semi-final.
"It's the game we wanted. It's the game we've been waiting for since last September. We have it now."
Dublin will face the most potent forward unit they have seen this summer with the likes of Paul Geaney and Darran O'Sullivan in good form while former Footballer of the Year James O'Donoghue is also edging back towards full fitness having missed a large part of the season through injury.
The popular consensus is that if Dublin have a vulnerability it might be in their back six that could include a less than fully fit James McCarthy.
But Fitzmaurice believes Dublin haven't missed the absent pair of Jack McCaffrey and Rory O'Carroll to this point.
"I think the fellas that have come in are very good. I think the likes of John Small was in place for a couple of years and he was waiting his chance.
"When he got his chance. I think he's got better and better as the season's gone on.
"David Byrne wasn't a player I was overly familiar with until this year but I think he has improved as the year has gone on.
"And I think with Dublin, especially their defenders, it's under-estimated how important their defenders are to them because we see the expansive game they play and the scores they put up.
"But they have very good defenders, particularly in one on one situations. They practice defending a lot and they're good defenders.
"I don't think they've missed the lads a lot. Whether it's a factor between now and the end of September, who knows?"
Dublin, he says, are continually evolving. He admits that they failed to disrupt Stephen Cluxton's kick-outs in the league final, having had some joy in previous encounters. In his view, the Dublin goalkeeper's kick-outs have improved even further.
"They're always adding. They're always improving. They don't stand still.
"I think that their game and the way they play hasn't changed that much year to year under Jim Gavin. But the subtle tweaks, with the likes of Cian O'Sullivan obviously is a well-documented one.
"They're putting less and less ball up for grabs. They're slicker up front.
"Brian Fenton was a huge addition to them in terms of a ball-winning midfielder. And all the other attributes he brings, both defensively and offensively.
"But they're always adding little bit and improving. If you don't, you're going to be found out.
"You can't do what they've done in the last - it's nearly 18 months at this stage - to have gone unbeaten the league and championship - is serious stuff. Especially after winning an All-Ireland."