'I refute Lee Keegan's assertion' - Eamonn Fitzmaurice hits back at Mayo star's 'dirty tackle' comment
Kerry boss Eamonn Fitzmaurice has refuted claims made by Lee Keegan that the broken jaw and concussion suffered by his Mayo team-mate Evan Regan in last Saturday's Division 1 league tie in Castlebar was in any way malicious.
Earlier this week, 2016 Footballer of the Year Keegan hit out at "a very bad challenge" by Kerry defender Ronan Shanahan on Regan, who is likely to face surgery and sit out the rest of their league campaign as a result of the injuries suffered.
While wishing Regan a speedy recovery after an injury that "nobody likes to see happening", Fitzmaurice went on to rebuke Keegan's suggestions of a dirty tackle, describing them as "way off the mark" as he defended Shanahan.
"They were way off the mark. It wasn't a dirty tackle at all. It was a genuine attempt to play the ball and I don't think Lee looked back at the replay of the incident to be honest with the comments he made," Fitzmaurice said yesterday evening ahead of his side's clash against Monaghan tomorrow.
"There was absolutely no intent on Ronan Shanahan's part, I spoke to him and he said the same thing. I knew it from looking at the replay of the incident myself. So no I don't agree with Lee and I refute Lee Keegan's assertion that there was any malice in Ronan's tackle."
Fitzmaurice has overseen back-to-back Allianz League wins for Kerry this season with many of the Kingdom's four-in-a-row All-Ireland minor-winning brigade on board but a hamstring injury to teenage sensation David Clifford last weekend caused a major stir.
As a result, the prodigious Fossa forward missed IT Tralee's midweek Sigerson Cup defeat to DIT with some questioning Fitzmaurice's decision to play Clifford and other college players like Seán O'Shea and Gavin Crowley given their hectic schedule.
"We monitor the lads very closely and player welfare would be top of our lists of concerns always," Fitzmaurice said.
"All the lads who played Sigerson Cup this week would have worn GPS units from us to monitor their load, so we are on top of where they are at, but unfortunately you do get situations where David tweaked his hamstring last weekend and it was disappointing for everyone.
"With regard to any rift or row that has been reported between IT Tralee and me, there wasn't one. I dealt with Eamonn Fitzgerald the whole way through it, the same as I deal with Billy Morgan in UCC, the same with John Divilly in UCD, with open lines of communication."
FITZMAURICE has been forced into three changes for their trip to Inniskeen with Clifford (hamstring), O'Shea (calf) and Crowley (wrist) replaced by Andrew Barry, Daithi Casey and Jack Savage.
Barry replaces Crowley at No 6, joining his brother Jack in the side, while opponents Monaghan have named All-Star attacker Conor McManus on the bench but the Clontibret ace may start after making a 15-minute cameo in their defeat of Kildare.
Meanwhile, Mayo boss Stephen Rochford has shuffled the deck for their crunch tie with Galway in Salthill tomorrow (2.0) as they look for their first league win of 2018.
There's no place for Footballer of the Year Andy Moran or captain Cillian O'Connor as Conor Loftus is given another chance to impress in attack, coming in for Regan.
All-Star defender Colm Boyle - who replaces veteran Barry Moran - also adds a spark to their defence and it will be needed ahead of the much-anticipated clash of Connacht rivals.
With four straight defeats to the Tribesmen in recent seasons and a Connacht SFC quarter-final tie to come later this year, Rochford will be keen to allay relegation fears against a Galway side which has made a seamless transition to life in the top tier, claiming full points from their first two games.
Another side desperate for a victory is Tyrone, who have suffered back-to-back Division 1 defeats, and manager Mickey Harte makes two changes from the team which faded away badly against Dublin for their visit to Newbridge tomorrow (2.0).
Conor Meyler and Rory Brennan come in for Tyrone while Tommy Moolick's inclusion is the only Kildare change.