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Tomás Ó Sé: Eamon Fitzmaurice's show of strength sends out right message

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Kerry's Bryan Sheehan and Anthony Maher contest a kick out with Fintan Goold, Cork. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

Kerry's Bryan Sheehan and Anthony Maher contest a kick out with Fintan Goold, Cork. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

Kerry's Bryan Sheehan and Anthony Maher contest a kick out with Fintan Goold, Cork. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

Kingdom haven’t gone away and neither have Cork – despite what their ‘fans’ think

The kettle should have told me there'd be no flies on Kerry last Sunday, because the smart boys well and truly nailed me. Got up, half-asleep, went to make a cup of tea and, next thing, my kitchen was a bubble bath.

Still don't know the culprit, but the ‘wanted' poster is small. Marc, Bryan Sheehan and Darran O'Sullivan called in on Saturday night for a cuppa and, before they left, one comedian squirted Fairy Liquid down the spout of the kettle.

Sounds juvenile I know, but this is the kind of thing I've been missing most this summer. The messing. The sense of letting off nervous steam with little schoolboy stunts against one another.

My place in Fota Island backs onto the training pitch where, later on Saturday, the team was having a loosener. I was looking in over the fence when Fitz (Eamonn Fitzmaurice) came across for a quick chat. Small talk just, but immediately I got a good vibe. He sounded ready without being cocky.

“Tomás, I'd be confident we'll get a performance!”

I met Billy Morgan coming out of the game afterwards. Billy would have been hurting over Cork taking that kind of hiding from Kerry in their own backyard, but a tiny part of him would have been pleased too for someone like Paul Geaney. He coached seven or eight of the Kerry squad with UCC and, I know, always had big time for Geaney especially.

But even Billy was taken aback by the amount that Kerry got out of everyone in Pairc Ui Chaoimh.

So it was a huge win for Fitz. It strikes me that he has made some hard calls as Kerry manager, one of which is making the team a little more defensive. You know, Donegal won an All-Ireland with two hugely dangerous forwards inside and Kerry

might be in a position to try something similar now that Geaney and James O'Donoghue look to be on fire.

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This field is required

For me, O'Donoghue is as good as anyone in the country. Off the field, he's so relaxed, you'd nearly be looking at him thinking, ‘Jesus, is he wired in at all?'

I remember being on a training trip a few years ago and he missed a team meeting because he was fast asleep above in bed. He's a very witty lad, with a lovely way about him. In Kerry, I suppose we'd call him a complete ‘townie'. Do you remember him walking up for his All Star last year and that wink he threw to the TV camera? That's James all over, a typically ‘townie' forward.

Some great manager of the past had a saying that the ideal Kerry team would be one with West Kerry backs and ‘townie' forwards. The ‘townie' forwards always had that cuteness and quickness, while the West Kerry backs, like the Paddy Bawns, were tough men.

Destroyed

I don't know if James is intentionally stepping up to the plate this year in Gooch's absence, but he looks like he's playing with no fear and that's what you want. Himself and Geaney absolutely destroyed (Eoin) Cadogan and (Michael) Shields on Sunday, kicking 0-3 each from play before Cork really knew what hit them. Cadogan and Shields tried to bully them, but the best way to answer that stuff is knock the ball over the bar. And they kept doing that.

Last year, we relied too heavily on the Gooch, but now we have two real scoring threats inside.

One thing that struck me after Sunday is that we can disregard anything we saw in the League. You look at Derry making the Division 1 final – where are they now? You think of how poor Kerry were against Cork in Tralee? League form is out the win

dow. And, you know, Kerry going that bit more defensive actually suits them. People might say it's not the Kerry way, but who has been winning All-Irelands the Kerry way lately?

On Sunday, Fitz won the tactical battle hands down, but he'll know that Cork were desperately poor too. When you give a team a good dosing, the smart manager will ground you straight away. I'd say he'll have been doing that from Tuesday night,

because you need to be selfish about what you're listening to.

Bottom line, if Kerry don't back this performance up with something similar in Croke Park, it'll go down as a waste.

Funny, you think about the “animals” Páidí spoke about in Kerry, but the abuse the Cork team took from their people on Sunday shocked me. I was trying to argue with a few of them. I mean I know Cork didn't per

form, I know they lacked leadership.

But sometimes it gets overlooked how a tiny, tiny spark can change everything for a team.

By that I mean you can go in one week from not playing well to producing what we produced against Dublin in '09. That's something the normal fan can never seem to see. So I couldn't believe what I was hearing on Sunday.

‘No balls...’

‘No heart, no leaders...’

‘'Tis backwards that they're going...'

The same old talk, even though we know Cork are nowhere near as bad as they looked. True, they have serious questions to answer in terms of leadership. They are at a crossroads now and they can go one of two ways.

But it's now your real leaders have to stand up. I think they'll be hurting badly and could still have a say in this Championship. Have they the stuff to win it? I doubt that. But they could take out a big team yet.

I said last week that it was in the middle eight Kerry could win the game and that's pretty much how it panned out. I've never seen a Kerry midfield dominate another team so totally.

For me, it's the Sheehans, the Johnny Buckleys, the Killian Youngs that will drive this Kerry team. Sheehan is much maligned, but he gave it one serious hour on Sunday. People don't realise how much more there is to him than just free-taking. In my mind, he's good enough to be dominating games.

Mileage

Donnchadh Walsh gave a huge performance and you had Declan (O'Sullivan) back to his best again, playing the exact same link-man role that Paul (Galvin) had been playing in recent years. The mileage that man has put up for Kerry.

I mean I'm listening to fellas writing off the likes of Declan and Marc and all I can think is, ‘Jesus, do you have any understanding of the pride in these lads?'

Then to see the likes of Darran, Peter Crowley and ‘Star' (Kieran Donaghy) coming off the bench, it just felt like a perfect day.

Because Sunday's minor victory was a big thing for Kerry too. I saw a clip of Jack O'Connor talking last week and, for me, he hit the nail on the head. There have always been footballers in Kerry, but the thing that changed was the attitude to winning.

Jack said he wanted to reinforce with the minors how there was an onus on them to carry the tradition properly. You're talking not just about winning, but about winning and losing with dignity and respect.

Now Jack and I have crossed swords in the past, but I know he's the right man to have in charge when I hear that.

I mean there's some great young Kerry players that have gone to America this summer, young fellas ear-marked as the next great white hopes in the county. I just can't get my head around that. For us growing up, Kerry football was number one. That's got to come back again.

So Sunday felt a huge step in the right direction. It was as if we were sending out a simple message. One saying, ‘We haven't gone away!’


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