Fitzmaurice unfazed by northern final hurdle
It hasn't been a straightforward path for Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibhne to reach their first Hogan Cup final.
The introduction of the black card was always going to pose some early teething problems and so it came to pass in Chorca Dhuibhne's Corn Ui Mhuiri quarter-final against Cork's Chriost Rí.
The Kerry outfit had beaten Chriost Rí in extra-time when it was revealed that referee Kevin Walsh had failed to show Chorca Dhuibhne's captain Barra O Suilleabhain a red card after he had already been shown both a yellow and a black card.
According to the Dingle school's manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice, Chorca Dhuibhne made the decision not to appeal against the decision to replay the fixture in the interest of the game's integrity.
"The management took a decision, we spoke to the players as well to see what they thought, after we had made the decision, as we wanted to see were they happy with it," the Kerry senior football manager said.
"We also wanted to ensure that the competition was not interrupted. If we were to go on and try to get into a Corn Ui Mhuiri final, if the game was left as it was the first day, there would have been a sour taste, and we did not want anything like that."
Since that controversial moment in their journey to today's final, Chorca Dhuibhne have gone from strength to strength. Having eventually been crowned Corn Ui Mhuiri champions, they comfortably saw off St Gerald's of Castlebar in the All-Ireland semi-final.
Despite their good form this year, Fitzmaurice is confident that his side still have more to offer. And they will have to as they face a tough Derry outfit in St Patrick's of Maghera.
"It's great to be going into an All-Ireland final. I suppose the fact that it's on in Croke Park is a bonus," Fitzmaurice added.
"It's great for the lads themselves to be heading for Croke Park, because it's the place you want to play. The school has come a long way in a short while. This particular group, since they came into the school, have enjoyed a lot of success. They have played in a lot of big games and won a lot of finals."
For a powerhouse footballing county, Kerry's record in the Hogan Cup is quite poor. Just three Kingdom schools have won the title and Chorca Dhuibhne are not one of them.
Fitzmaurice is conscious of that but he rejected the notion that Kerry schools' poor record against northern sides will come into play this afternoon. Na Sceilge are the only Kerry school to beat a northern team in this competition (2009 semi-final).
"Look, these are the challenges you want. I would rather be in the final, fighting my case than not, like we were last year," he said.
"Those stats won't have any effect in terms of what has gone on in the past. This is a new team for them from last year. We are new opponents for them, they haven't come across us before."
St Pat's will go into the final as firm favourites given their history in the competition but Chorca Dhuibhne are an emerging force.
For far too long, Kerry schools have failed to put their stamp on the Hogan Cup but Fitzmaurice is confident that Chorca Dhuibhne can buck the trend.
"If we can improve like we have been all the way along, then I believe it will take a very good team to beat us," he said.
St Pat's are a "very good team" but so too are Chorca Dhuibhne. Now is the time for them to prove that.