Eamonn Fitzmaurice's comments on Kerry young guns show the future of the Kingdom is in good hands
Kerry boss Eamonn Fitzmaurice agrees that the chance to secure a spot in the 'Super 8s' makes Munster final day even more significant.
The Kingdom face Cork in Saturday evening's provincial decider in Páirc Uí Chaoimh (throw-in 7.0).
And after handing out seven debuts in their facile win over Clare last time out, this will be a first taste of a Munster final for much of his side with Shane Murphy, Jason Foley, Ronan Shanahan, Gavin White, Micheál Burns, Seán O'Shea and David Clifford all making their senior championship bows last time out.
"For a player, your first championship game for Kerry is a huge day," Fitzmaurice said.
"It is a massive honour. For a share of them, they had been knocking on the door previously and hadn't got the nod. They were just delighted to get out there and play. Being in Killarney added to that. They know with the competition in the group that no one is guaranteed a starting position.
"Just because they played well and did well, they realise they have to build on that. I didn't have to go after them or tell them that. They are mature. They are used to the set-up. Bar David Clifford, they've been around the set-up for the last two years. And he is a very level-headed fella anyway."
Fitzmaurice admits that while the Munster title "stands on its own" a Super 8 place has its own value.
"That's a fair comment, but I think it stands on its own. It is a chance to put silverware on the table and win a championship. That's the first part. If you can win it you are into the Super 8 scenario and you are there and you can be planning for it.
"Whereas if you lose and you have to play a qualifier a week before the Super 8s, it brings an extra layer of difficulty to that. There is a huge prize there, to get straight into the Super 8s and get yourself ready for that."
Kerry ran in a remarkable 32 points in their win over the Banner with some of his new-look side looking to secure their first Munster medal this weekend.
"I imagine it is a massive motivation for the lads that don't have one. A share of them would have had one last year, as subs, but a lot of the lads who made their debuts the last day don't have one. It is a huge motivation for them.
"We used the league to get game-time into some of our less experienced players. It is all about championship. Championship is different this year, but Munster is still the same. If we can get through this, then we are into new territory and that would be exciting."
Perhaps more significant than the return of 32 points was Kerry's defensive display. They conceded just ten points to the Banner after a spring that showed Kerry to have one of the leakiest defences in the top flight.
"It is something you are always working on. Backs are always trying to defend with discipline. It is easy when you are looking down on it, but when you are one-on-one with some of the best forwards in the country and they are going at you, it can be hard to stop them legally.
"You are not going to wave them through and let them stick it in the back of the net. There's obviously a fine line there. When you are coaching backs, you want them to back themselves and stand up and try and defend as best they can when they are in a one-on-one situation.
"It can be tough when you are defending the Luke Connollys of the world in a one-on-one. The less frees you give away, the better."
Connolly starred for Cork in their win over Tipperary last time out and has established himself as one of the Rebels' leading players but Fitzmaurice warned that Ronan McCarthy's men have other threats.
"He was outstanding the last day, but I think other players played very well the last day. Ruairi Deane was outstanding, as well. It seemed, from the games I've watched, to be his best game in a Cork jersey. I thought they were very strong in the middle of the field.
"If you have go-forward ball and are attacking, the quality of players they have up there, if Luke Connolly wasn't there, someone else would have done damage.
"Obviously, he is in the form of his life. He was outstanding for Nemo this year and all throughout last year. We know all about him. I know all about him. The year I was in charge of the U-21s, he got the crucial goal in Tralee that night. He is a top player and is going to take watching. If you stop him, we are obviously helping our cause but I think they've plenty of other players as well."
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