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Kerry's Eamonn Fitzmaurice ready for Tyrone master Mickey Harte's tricks

By Declan Bogue

Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice has warned that he expects his Tyrone counterpart, Mickey Harte, will try something to outfox the All-Ireland champions this Sunday.

"Mickey Harte's form has always been when you think he is going to do one thing he brings something different, and I think there will be a couple of curve balls thrown by both teams," said Fitzmaurice of this Sunday's All-Ireland semi-final.

The teacher in Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibhne, Dingle, assessed the work involved in coming up against the most experienced manager in the game, who showed how his capabilities are far from diminished with how Tyrone managed the threat of Ulster champions Monaghan in the quarter-final.

"At times Tyrone can get 12 or 13 men behind inside own 45, so it's going to be a great challenge for us," commented Fitzmaurice.

"Equally then, there is the balance of not leaving yourself wide open at the back. I'm sure it will be an interesting game and a tactical game. But it is a challenge I am looking forward to and it will be a great test of us."

While Fitzmaurice declared Tyrone's march through the qualifiers as impressive, he also makes the point that their National League form was generally impressive despite relegation.

A curious fact is that of the teams remaining in the hunt for Sam, Tyrone beat Mayo away from home before drawing with Dublin and Kerry, being somewhat unlucky in both games to not take both points.

As for the negative publicity arising out of the Monaghan encounter, the former Kerry centre-back believes Tyrone can use it as a positive.

"They have an experienced manager and they have been around the block, a lot of them, a good few times," he said. "They have seen how it works so it's not going to be about anything that is going on outside the camp, it's about what is happening on the pitch on Sunday. Anything else is irrelevant really."

He added: "I have said it in the past, once you are inside the bubble, inside an inter-county set-up, what goes on with the outside world, it hardly exists.

"It doesn't matter whether we are being slated or some other gang are being slated, we are just going to try and play the game we are going to play, and do it to the best of our abilities."

Last September, Fitzmaurice displayed his pragmatic side in setting Kerry up in a certain way to play, and beat, Donegal in the All-Ireland final. He will have to do a certain amount of that here, but sees further dangers with Tyrone in comparing them with Donegal.

He said: "I think they are more defensive, more athletic. When they defend they defend very well and in numbers and when they turn over the ball they are excellent in transition and get bodies up the field and they support each other.

"They have a couple of big leaders that are important to them and they play the game on their terms. They will be as tough a nut to crack since I have taken over anyway."

In terms of personal history, Fitzmaurice was part of the Kerry teams of 2003 and 2005 that lost in the Championship to the Red Hands.

In fact, he recalled his role in that famous example of Tyrone's full-court press against Kerry in the 2003 semi-final which in retrospect, is held up as the best example of that team tearing up the script.

"I remember it was going over there and I was standing here at centre back like at outhalf in rugby waiting for someone to throw the ball back," recalled Fitzmaurice.

"It almost became a symbol of that team and maybe a symbol of where we were at, at the time.

"I think at that time they surprised us with their intensity and the way they set up but I think we are a lot better prepared for it nowadays because we come across it a lot more often and in the club scene in Kerry there are teams that play similarly so lads are accustomed to it but in 2003, it was pretty new at that time."

Belfast Telegraph


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