Thursday 23 November 2017

Fitzmaurice focus turns to league test

Kerry 1-12
Tipperary 1-5
Jackie Cahill McGrath Cup final

EAMONN Fitzmaurice collected his first piece of silverware as Kerry senior football manager as the Kingdom strolled to a seven-point victory over Tipperary at Sean Treacy Park.

A crowd of 839 watched Kerry pick up the McGrath Cup for the third time in four seasons, but Fitzmaurice was already looking ahead to new challenges.

He had club duty to take care of with Finuge yesterday in the All-Ireland intermediate semi-final but when he gets back to business with Kerry during the week, the enormity of what lies in store will really start to hit home.

First up in the Allianz National Football League it's Mayo in Castlebar next Sunday. Dublin are the visitors six days later.

And Fitzmaurice has vowed to field his strongest possible team against the 2012 beaten All-Ireland finalists next weekend.

James O'Donoghue and Killian Young should return from injury and Fitzmaurice looks set to pick a team with plenty of experience.

He's got what he wanted from the McGrath Cup, having run the rule over a number of emerging and fringe players. But when the serious business begins, Fitzmaurice hinted that he's looking for men who've been around the block. Players like Darran O'Sullivan, who scored 1-3 on Saturday, and the O Se brothers, Marc and Tomas, who were dominant in defence against Tipp.

Fitzmaurice said: "I think a lot of the time with these (newer) lads, it's trying to get a bit of game-time into them. Sometimes that can be hard in the National League when you have a very competitive panel. Human nature being what it is, you're going to go with the experienced fellas that have been there, done that.

"But the lads have got a good chance and have definitely stuck their foot in the door going forward."

Players such as Jonathan Lyne, Jack Sherwood, Michael O'Donoghue and Paul Geaney have shown what they can do in the McGrath Cup. It remains to be seen if they're given the chance to step up in the more rarified atmosphere of league football, but for now it's all going very much according to plan for Fitzmaurice.

He explained: "The McGrath Cup, all along, has been about getting game-time into the lads. They've been working hard on the training pitch and Anthony (Maher) alluded to it in his speech, that it's great for the players to have games to look forward to at the weekend.

"We've had four tough games over the last couple of weeks – they've been getting progressively tougher. Today was a real test of the lads and we're delighted with the way they responded. We're looking forward to the National League next weekend and it will be another step up – a tough away game against Mayo. We got a lot of value out of the McGrath Cup."

Kerry finished with eight different players on the scoresheet and were 1-7 to 0-2 ahead at half-time. O'Sullivan buried a clinical 16th-minute goal and Kerry never looked back from there.

Tipp didn't register from play until the 47th minute and their consolation goal 10 minutes later was a fluke effort, as Barry Grogan's '45' somehow found its way into the net.

Tipp manager Peter Creedon admitted that the Premier County could have few complaints with the end result. And he argued that Tipp's opening Division 4 fixtures, at home to Carlow next Sunday and away to Waterford six days later, are much more important than a McGrath cup final.

"We had a good campaign – two good wins and there were reasonable parts about today as well. But we have to get promotion – that's it. The next two games are way more important," Creedon said.

Scorers – Kerry: D O'Sullivan 1-3 (0-1f), P Geaney 0-3 (1f), T O Se, A Maher, B Sheehan (1f), M Geaney, M O'Donoghue, P Curtin 0-1 each. Tipperary: B Grogan 1-4 (1-0 '45', 3f), L McGrath 0-1.

KERRY – B Kealy; M O Se, A O'Mahony, S Enright; J Lyne, J Sherwood, T O Se; A Maher, B Sheehan; M Geaney, D O'Sullivan, M O'Donoghue; B.J. Keane, P Curtin, P Geaney. Subs: D Culhane for Sherwood (47), A Garnett for Sheehan (57), BJ Walsh for Keane (57), P Murphy for Lyne (58), B Kelliher for O'Donoghue (59).

TIPPERARY – P Fitzgerald; A Morrissey, P Codd, J Coghlan; B Fox, S Kennedy, C McDonald; G Hannigan, L Egan; S O'Brien, P Quirke, B Maher; L McGrath, B Grogan, C Sweeney.

Subs: H Coghlan for Egan (h-t), A Campbell for Kennedy (h-t), B O'Brien for S O'Brien (53), B Jones for Hannigan (59), A Matassa for Sweeney (67).

Ref – J Bermingham (Cork).

Irish Independent

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