Tuesday 24 October 2017

Don't let Kilkenny-like Dublin kill off game with deadly goal blitz, warns Fitzmaurice

Eamonn Fitzmaurice knows his Kerry team have to stop Dublin scoring goals
Eamonn Fitzmaurice knows his Kerry team have to stop Dublin scoring goals
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Kerry need to be vigilant of their opponents' goal threat in Sunday's All-Ireland final - but they might need to be even more vigilant of the momentum that Dublin get from scoring a goal, manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice has advised.

Fitzmaurice knows all too well how Dublin goals can cut off the oxygen in Croke Park on big days, having watched his own Kerry team on the receiving end of one of their power surges towards the end of the epic 2013 All-Ireland semi-final, when Kevin McManamon and Dean Rock struck late.

And after a similar burst to floor Mayo at the beginning of the fourth quarter in last week's semi-final replay, the impact of a Dublin goal can amount to more than just three points.

"They go for goals, it's part of their game. When they get a goal they get life from that, and the Hill really gets involved," acknowledged Fitzmaurice, who has drawn comparison with the Kilkenny hurlers on that front.

"It's no coincidence that they often get their second goal soon after their first one. It's something we have to protect against, and we've conceded goals in the Championship this year."

Interestingly, Dublin were held goal-less in their last two Championship defeats, to Mayo in the 2012 semi-final and to Donegal last year.

"You give yourself a great chance of winning if you can keep them out, if you can stop them scoring goals," added Fitzmaurice.

"But if you go back over the last few years there aren't too many games when they didn't score goals.

"If they get a goal we have to ensure they don't get too much momentum from that - similar to the Kilkenny hurlers a few years ago, getting a couple of goals to kill the game in a short space of time. We'll have to mind it."

As a manager Fitzmaurice has lost that 2013 semi-final and two League games to Dublin during his three seasons in charge of the Kingdom but sees the motivation that might spring from those results as "a positive."

"I don't think it has festered. Any team that has beaten you, that has the upper hand on you . . . of course you're going to want to beat them," he said.

"I'd see it as more of a positive than a negative thing. We know they have our number to a certain extent, but that if we play to the top of our game we'll really test them."

Fitzmaurice has been impressed with the way that Dublin absorbed the lessons of their surprise defeat to Donegal in last year's All-Ireland semi-final but also noted that few teams have pushed up on all six defenders, a clear indication that Kerry will.

"I think they're a good bit more defensively-conscious," he observed. "They're protecting their own goals a lot better, protecting their own half of the pitch a bit better.

"Cian O'Sullivan had done a lot of very good work for them this year in that regard. But I don't think too many teams play with six up on them either, which will ask questions of them as well and be interesting.

"The last day, Denis Bastick, while he was on the pitch, was defensively-minded as well. He was in the middle of the field but was conscious of his defensive duties.

"We learned lessons from 2013 as well, we learned lessons in the drawn Munster final this year.

"When you don't win a game, you learn valuable lessons. They learned some harsh lessons against Donegal last year and they've brought it forward again this year while still maintaining that fantastic game they have where they can put up huge scores."

Fitzmaurice admitted that Kerry will have to draw up plans for Kevin McManamon, whether the St Jude's powerhouse starts or comes in - McManamon scored goals against them in their last two meetings.

He has also credited Kerry's character to withstand what Tyrone threw at them in the second half of their semi-final.

"You'd wonder how we got in that position in the first place when we were very comfortable. In fairness, they did show great experience and character," he said.

Irish Independent

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