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Kerry defeat may now lead to a changing of the guard

By Joe Kernan

It is never easy for the manager of a defeated team to face the media after a match in the knowledge that his every phrase will be clinically dissected.

Yet when Kerry boss Eamon Fitzmaurice entered the Media Room at Croke Park on Sunday to put himself in the line of fire from the assembled journalists he did so with a quiet dignity and inherent sense of politeness.

And in dealing with the volley of queries directed his way he revealed honesty and openness, qualities that saw his stature rise in the eyes of those observers.

While Fitzmaurice acknowledged Dublin’s supremacy and lauded his own team’s commendable efforts, it was when his attention was drawn to the future that he made a pertinent observation.

In response to the suggestion that some of his players who have now passed their 30th birthday may decide to step aside, Fitzmaurice responded that “this is not a day for making such decisions.”

But it was when he elaborated on the stress that gaelic football, particularly at county level, can now be a very demanding sport for players with young families that he struck a chord.

It is accepted that a greater burden is placed on players in the ongoing quest for success.

County teams which make their exit at an early stage from the All-Ireland qualifiers are permitted to commence training for the new season in November of the previous year and given that most managers will have announced their squads before that, players must be prepared to commit themselves from November until their team’s championship run ends.

It is being said more often nowadays that gaelic football at the top level is a young man’s game yet the top teams such as Kerry still have a quota of evergreen players such as the O Sé brothers Marc and Tómas, Paul Galvin, Aidan O’Mahoney, Kieran Donaghy, Colm Cooper, Eoin Brosnan and Declan O’Sullivan in their line-up.

Fitzmaurice is likely to lose some of these players simply because the training and conditioning programmes currently being mapped out require tremendous dedication and effort.

It is not easy for players now to juggle work, family and sporting commitments. And bear in mind that many players are currently out of work and striving to cope with household bills.

Kerry’s defeat last Sunday does not only mark the end of their All-Ireland title ambitions for this year but could yet prove the precursor to a significant changing of the guard.

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