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Fitzmaurice has warning for Kerry

By Declan Bogue

Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice believes the lessons Dublin learned in their defeat to Donegal in last year's All-Ireland semi-final has made them a much more tactically flexible and dangerous opponent.

The Kingdom face the Dubs in this Sunday's All-Ireland final, and after the latter's all-out approach was so ruthlessly exposed by Donegal in 2014, manager Jim Gavin has adopted a pragmatic attitude, enlisting the help of a basketball coach to equip them with a zonal defensive strategy.

However, Fitzmaurice maintains that the sheer threat of his six attackers can make for a different game than Dublin are used to.

"I don't think too many teams play with six up on them, which will ask questions of them as well and be interesting," he said.

Asked how Dublin have become less defensively naive, the Dingle schoolteacher replied: "The last day, Denis Bastick was defensively minded, he was in the middle of the field but was conscious of his defensive duties.

"When you don't win a game you learn valuable lessons. They learned some harsh lessons against Donegal last year and they've brought it forward again this year, while at the same time still maintaining that fantastic game they have where they can put up huge scores."

Pointing to the strength of Dublin's bench, Fitzmaurice counted their contribution in the semi-final replay win over Mayo. He stated: "Alan Brogan made a big difference, (Michael Darragh) Macauley made a massive difference, as did Kevin McManamon.

"They showed the strength of their squad but they really showed mental fortitude when four down. Mayo had a goal, the momentum was going away from them. We all know their strength football-wise, particularly in attack, but I was very impressed with their character."

Asked if they would have a plan in particular for McManamon, scorer of 1-1 when introduced and a prolific goalscorer against Kerry, Fitzmaurice smiled and answered: "There will be."

He also talked in terms of Kerry having to avenge recent Championship defeats to Dublin.

"They defeated us in the Championship in 2011 and 2015. Of course you want to beat any team that has the upper hand over you," he said.

"I see it as more of a positive. We know they have our number to a certain extent but if we play to the top of our game we'll really test them.

"There is something special about Dublin-Kerry. It's a game every Kerry player wants to play in. But especially when you get to an All-Ireland final, it doesn't matter who's there, you just want to win the game."

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