Galway occupy Kerry minds as Super 8 set to blast off
THE concept of a Super 8 might be two years in the making but for Kerry and Eamonn Fitzmaurice in particular it will mark the end of one frustrating experience.
That is, the wait the Munster Football Championship winners have traditionally had for the All-Ireland phase of the Championship.
Every year since he became manager in 2013, with the exception of 2015, Kerry have had a wait of at least a month for an All-Ireland quarter-final and while they might never had lost one under Fitzmaurice they were never generally the most impressive of wins.
“I think the Championship needed freshening up and for us July was always a difficult month after winning a Munster Championship when we had no games and didn't know who we would be playing,” said the Kerry manager.
The 2014 All-Ireland-winning boss is looks forward to the mix of neutral, home and away in the three games that will be played.
While believing the format is not perfect, Fitzmaurice doesn't see the fact the provincial winners are not at home until the last round of fixtures as being no reward for winning the province.
“I think in a situation where you are fighting to make the semi-finals in your last game then home advantage is a massive thing to have,'' he added.
“It's really up to you to make that home game relevant and for us it will be the latest we have played at home since the Qualifier with Tyrone back in July 2012.
“I agree that the format isn't perfect especially when there is a loophole about Croke Park being both a neutral and home venue but I think when Pauric Duffy (then GAA Director General) spoke about it two years ago he did say that these would be some of the tweaks that would be eventually need to be addressed,” he said of the debate around the format.
Galway will occupy Kingdom minds initially before a third trip of the year to the Farney County for them to take on Monaghan while Kerry will close the Round Robin at home to Kildare in Killarney on the first weekend of August.
Kerry's last All-Ireland quarter-final in the old format was against Galway last year making their meeting again in a ‘last eight' game a bit coincidental.
Fitzmaurice expects a tough afternoon with Kevin Walsh's side especially after losing to them in the League in Tralee back in February.
“I thought Galway were in a good place last year only they just didn't perform against us on the day in Croke Park,'' he stated.
“They didn't lose a game in the League bar the final itself and they have a strong squad now and are well embedded under Kevin Walsh. “They can play in a variety of different ways and I think despite their methods being questioned they are still successful in what they are doing.
“You need a variety in how you play if you want to succeed,” he believes.
The subject of punditry itself is something Fitzmaurice addressed himself in his pre-match thoughts, believing a lot of it at present to be too reactionary: “I just feel it's too knee-jerk but the nature of punditry itself is that in a crowded market you have to make your voice heard.
“A lot of it is hysterical and when you win it doesn't mean everything is right or when you lose that everything is wrong.
“Results create an energy one way or another amongst people but our job is to keep the players in the middle of the course we want to steer them onto.”