Saturday 18 November 2017

Too soon for Kingdom relegation talk, says Eamonn Fitzmaurice

Eamon Fitzmaurice (SPORTSFILE)
Eamon Fitzmaurice (SPORTSFILE)
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Experience has taught Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice not to get too flustered about losing early National League games.

Fitzmaurice takes his team to Newry on Sunday where they face Down, one of the other two teams who remain pointless in Division 1 after two rounds.

But it's familiar territory for them during his reign as they have lost their opening two games in two of their previous three years.

In fact, Kerry have won just one of their eight previous pre-March league ties during his time in charge (away to Derry last year) but have still managed to preserve their status in the top flight each time.

Defeat to Mayo and Dublin in 2013, Dublin and Derry in 2014, Mayo in 2015 and Dublin and Roscommon this year have given them a one-in-six return for January-February league games.

So Sunday gives them a chance to improve that record against a county that Fitzmaurice got his first competitive win against in Tralee in March 2013.

"It is a four-pointer, but I wouldn't be worried about relegation just yet. I think 2013 showed that, where we lost the first four games," he recalled.

"I know we got out of jail with results and a late score on the final day but as long as it's mathematically possible to stay there, you will do that. Every game is a big game; the games next weekend are going to bring some interesting results," he predicted.

"Down are in the same situation so I think there will probably be an air of desperation about both sides really to try to get two points on the board."

Senan Kilbride is recalled to the Roscommon team for their trip to play Cork on Sunday in Division 1, one of two changes to the line-up from the win over Kerry. Kilbride picked up an injury prior to that game but replaces Conor Daly, while Sean Purcell is included at Ronan Stack's expense.

Sean Cavanagh comes in to the Tyrone team for his first 2016 league start as Mickey Harte makes four changes from the side that beat Galway for Sunday's game against Laois in Division 2.

Hugh Pat McGeary and Barry Tierney replace Ronan McNamee and Rory Brennan in defence, while Cavanagh and Mark Bradley come into attack with Padraig McNulty and Conor McAliskey moving to the bench.

Brendan Rogers returns to the Derry team to play Galway after recovering from the facial injury he sustained in the McKenna Cup final against Tyrone last month.

Rogers needed 14 stitches for a wound after an early collision with Tyrone's Tiernan McCann. Mickey Harte defended his player after Derry manager Damien Barton suggested people were "horrified" by what happened.

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