Fitzmaurice quick to defend Kerry full back line

Tony Leen

The intrigue of Aidan O’Shea at full back for Mayo was something everyone was keen to get Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s opinion on. Had you seen it coming? Did it work out to Kerry advantage?

But before any of that, Fitzmaurice had his own housekeeping to do in the wake of Sunday’s dramatic 2-14 apiece draw in the All-Ireland SFC semi final at Croke Park.

Like defend his much maligned full-back line, taken for 1-9 from play by the Mayo inside trio of Andy Moran, Cillian O’Connor and Jason Doherty.

“(Moran) did well but it’s a two-way street. You have to look at what kind of ball was going into him, where was it coming from – there’s only so much you can do. The full-back line is often thrown to the wolves but a lot of the time, particularly when you’re not playing a sweeper, if there’s space there and uncontested ball going in, it’s a tough assignment.”

The question for Fitzmaurice now is whether he goes the sweeper route for the replay next Saturday at Croke Park (3pm). With the exception of Dingle’s Tom O’Sullivan, Kerry don’t have many option to change the full back line with Briain O Beaglaoich struggling still for a run of fitness.

Fitzmaurice accepted that Kerry “rode our luck, got away with it,” when Andy Moran was twice denied by the arms of Mark Griffin and Shane Enright (two of the maligned full-back line, by the by), for a third Mayo goal before half time.

“Again, when you’re not playing a sweeper, that can happen. But it was some battle. Both sets of players deserve massive credit for the way that they went at it today, particularly with the conditions the way they were.

“I think both teams will have regrets, that they could have possibly have won the game, and at the same time be relieved that they’re not going to be out of the Championship as well.”

On the Aidan O’Shea decision - one that could scarcely be endorsed as successful, the Kerry manager added: “It was a thing we’d discussed, there was a possibility it could happen, that they could match him up with Kieran [Donaghy]. We felt maybe it would be down list of possible options, but it was something we had discussed.

“Obviously it’s up to Mayo to get their match-ups right and for them to organise those – that’s not something we can control.”

Diplomatically, Fitzmaurice added: “I think he did fine. He won one or two balls in the first half and rooted away with Kieran, he didn’t allow him to have a huge impact on the game.

“But with a player like that, if you give them a big job like that to do, it’s robbing Peter to pay Paul – he obviously can’t be in two places at once. From the Mayo point of view, they’d be happy once he does the role that is assigned to him for the day

“To be fair to Mayo, they were very intense in the middle third, as they do, they tackled ferociously and worked really hard. I think conditions helped that. It was hard for our kickers to get their head up and get the ball in as we would have liked, but that’s something for us to work on for next week now.

“We got some of our match-ups right, but obviously Aidan O’Shea was one of our match-ups, so that changed things slightly. But overall I would have been happy with them.”

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