Thursday 18 January 2018

Fitzmaurice put his neck on the block for us - Walsh

Kerry footballer Donnchadh Walsh. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Kerry footballer Donnchadh Walsh. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

On media duty in Croke Park, Donnchadh Walsh wasn't trying to hide the enormous sense of satisfaction he felt when he woke up yesterday morning.

Beating Dublin was in itself a milestone for a new-look Kerry team. Winning the League title was another fillip. And securing victory on a week where Eamonn Fitzmaurice "put his neck on the line for us" added to Walsh's sense of contentment.

The Cromane dynamo wasn't fully aware of what Fitzmaurice had said in the build-up to the game with Dublin, but he knew enough to feel that the squad owed their manager a big performance.

"I kept away from it, I didn't know what he'd said but obviously I got rumblings that he was highlighting that we were portrayed as the instigators of negative play and things like that," said Walsh, at the announcement that Littlewoods Ireland had come on board as sponsors of the GAA Go Games provincial days, that will see 7,000 children play in Croke Park this month.

"We just felt that Eamonn was putting his neck on the line for us, and he has done it so many times.

"(It was a) bit of payback for him, that he put himself in that position where he felt he had to come out and back us so we wanted to back Eamonn on the field, and the only way we were going to do that was by… not performing, it was just by winning."

"Waking up this morning, (my first thought) was that we'd beaten Dublin. We'd gotten that monkey off our back; (it) just happened to be a League final. We didn't beat them in the group stage so we just wanted to do one better than that."

Walsh never felt Sunday was a 'must win' game for Kerry. In his book, those sort of do or die clashes don't come around until August. But he wasn't denying that their failure to beat Dublin in recent attempts had been frustrating.

"It was never really a must-win, there's always a bigger game coming on later in the summer. The more they were adding on to that record that we hadn't beaten them, it was grating on us more and more.

"It was just asking the question, further and further, could we beat them? And we knew we could, we needed to prove it to everybody else really.

"A lot of people did question us whether we could at all, so it was nice to… not that we take too much notice of what is being said. We're fairly confident in our ability but nobody likes losing, we've basically gotten sick of that so it was nice to win."

Dublin came to within the width of the post of forcing extra-time but Walsh was delighted with how Kerry coped with their comeback.

"We took a lot of pleasure from the final 10 or 15 minutes of the League game that we outscored them 4-2," he said.

"The stats from the last 10 or 15 minutes in previous meetings have been hugely in favour of them scoring-wise so we took a lot of solace from beating them in the last 10 minutes down in Tralee.

"They maybe outscored us in the last few minutes (on Sunday) but we had enough of a lead, so yeah, the teams are so evenly matched at the moment that it does come down to subs producing the winning score of the game. It's which team has the small bit of extra bit of quality in the last few minutes."

On the last five occasions Kerry won the league (1983-84, 1996-97, 2004, 2006, 2009), they went on to win Sam Maguire, and Walsh reckons the Kingdom will take confidence from securing spring silverware once more.

"It's almost like two seasons the way the GAA is at the moment," he said.

"Fellas can take stock again now for the next number of weeks and come at the Championship as almost a new season and the confidence fellas will take from a League win will be huge.

"It's happened with Kerry over the last number of years. We've won Leagues and we've gone on to win All-Irelands. Even that history as well will add to the confidence."

Littlewoods Ireland yesterday launched their first year as sponsor of GAA Go Games Provincial Days in Croke Park.

Irish Independent

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