NEW KERRY MANAGER Eamonn Fitzmaurice has described his decision to become senior football supremo in the Kingdom as ‘too good an opportunity to turn down’.
The 35 year-old was ratified last night at a Kerry county board meeting as the boss for the next three years and Fitzmaurice revealed to TheScore.ie that he did not have to be strongly persuaded to take the role by county board chiefs.
But he did admit he was reluctant to leave his position as county U21 manager and that he did hold some concerns over managing some players he held close relationships with having lined out together on All-Ireland winning teams.
Yet having received the backing of Jack O’Connor, the man he replaces in the position, and his family, the Finuge club man decided to accept the offer.
“It was never a burning ambition of mine to be involved in Kerry management and when I got the call to get involved with Jack for the start of 2009, it was a bolt out of the blue. But I really enjoyed it and when this chance came along, I just felt it was too good an opportunity to turn down.
“I spoke to Jack before taking it and he made the point that there’s never a perfect time to take these jobs. You can be trying to get yourself ready and grooming yourself for senior management but you never know the way things might pan out. The chance might not have arisen again.
“Leaving the U21 job was a big consideration as well. I thought we’d a good bit of ground work done and were making progress as we’d 15 of this year’s panel underage for next year. The other factor was that I have friends on the current senior panel. The question was could I manage them effectively. But I’d been a selector before, so I’d crossed that divide which helped ease that issue.
“I spoke to my wife Tina, because it’s such a huge commitment, that I needed her backing as well as my parents, brothers and sisters. I just thought after weighing up the positives and negatives that it’s not every day this chance comes along. It had to be taken.”
In the aftermath of their All-Ireland quarter-final defeat to Donegal, there is a school of thought that Kerry are entering a transition phase as they try to adapt to the changing national landscape.
But Fitzmaurice views that as an exciting challenge and does not believe there will be many retirements amongst the longer-serving members of the current Kingdom setup.
“The game is certainly changing but I think it’s really enjoyable to try to get a system of play to be effective against teams like Donegal. You want to keep an eye on the Kerry traditions and try to mould a game plan. It’s a big challenge but that’s more of a motivation factor in my eyes. I didn’t speak to any players before taking the job as it’s still very raw for them after the loss to Donegal.
“But I’ll definitely meet with fellas over the next few weeks. I won’t be putting huge pressure on them as February 2013 is a long way off. Having seen them up close this summer, I know that physically they can all keep going. The question is whether they have the desire to. But I’m not expecting too many retirements.”
Fitzmaurice has delayed the announcement of his backroom team until the next Kerry county board meeting in October as he continues to assemble it.
“Particularly for someone who’s young and inexperienced, trying to get that back room team right is very important. I have time on my side as the whole thing happened so quickly. I was only ratified last night so I’ve time to do it. I want to make sure I get the right people in the right places as it’s such a big job.”
Eamonn Fitzmaurice with Jack O’Connor during Kerry’s 2009 championship campaign. Pic: ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Eamonn Fitzmaurice on…
“I was surprised that he decided to go but he put an awful lot into it and it was very disappointing to lose the final last year. He’ll go away and recharge the batteries, and I could see him coming back into it. He was very enthusiastic when I asked him for advice and he was delighted to see I took it. Maybe that was because it was someone that worked with him was involved and he could still have some input from the outside.”
His own playing career
“I’ll be finishing up this year with the club and won’t be playing next year. I felt the end was coming anyway. We’ve a county intermediate football semi-final with Finuge on Saturday week against Ardfert. We’ve been trying to win it for a good few years so that’s a big challenge.”
Managing Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibhne
“I had committed to managing the Corn Ui Mhuiri team this year after we won the Frewen Cup (Munster Colleges JFC) last year. I’m looking forward to it and have some good help around me. Tommy Griffin, who I played with for Kerry, has come on board as a selector and I’ve good help from others as well.”
“I haven’t really given it much consideration but I probably will stay off it a bit. You’re leaving yourself open to a lot of people’s opinions. It could very well play a role though at times in helping to get a message out.”
Murph’s Sideline Cut: “Tomás Ó Sé said last week that you can’t train yourself for a match against Donegal – you have to experience it.”