AMIDST CHATTER REGARDING the newly reformed ‘top four’, Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice has dismissed the notion that Kerry, along with Mayo, Tyrone and Dublin, have reached unattainable heights relative to the rest of the country.
Fitzmaurice maintains that results prior to the impending semi-finals between the usual suspects dictate that the chasing pack aren’t as far away as they’re being made out to be, and claims he’s unsure ‘what more people want’ from the football championship.
“I do disagree with it,” Fitzmaurice said. “I think the margins are a lot smaller.
Look, the quarter-finals threw up big wins but I don’t think the margins are as big as people think they are. Last year you had Tipperary as one of the last four. I know at the start of this year people predicted the top four – most people would have predicted that. But you wouldn’t have predicted a lot of the other things that went on in the championship.
“You wouldn’t have predicted Down beating Monaghan, Armagh beating Kildare.
“Maybe people would have given Galway a chance of beating Mayo in Salthill but they’d have said they’d learn from the year before.
So there’s always upsets. There’s always plenty of talking points. I don’t know what more people want, really.”
Those four aforementioned teams – the so-called ‘stronger counties – have now contested the All-Ireland semi-finals in three of the last five seasons, but speaking ahead of Kerry’s showdown with a resurgent Mayo on Sunday, Fitzmaurice suggested that the buck stops with the rest of the country in their pursuit of the perennial achievers.
He also maintains that, even within the supposed big four, there remains a pecking order upon which Dublin continue to sit pretty.
“I do think if you’re behind it’s up to you to catch up, then,” he said. “We’re behind Dublin. We’re trying to catch up to them. So I think the onus is on the other counties to try and catch up, be it structures-wise, be it with the way their team is playing, be it with their conditioning – you can do an awful lot.
Everyone thinks it’s all money and it has to be money and it’s not – I think you can do a lot without that if you get the proper environment, proper people, proper training, you can achieve a lot.
He did however accept that deeper pockets, when utilised correctly and wisely, can bear huge significance to a county’s on-field fortunes. But Fitzmaurice maintains that all counties – not just Dublin – are spending money, many simply not as prudently as the reigning All-Ireland champions.
“It helps. Absolutely, it helps, of course, when you have the finance to put the things in place that you want to. That’s a huge debate – we could be here for the night. How is the finance being spent?
“Is it being spent on managers, management teams, backroom gurus? Or is it being spent on things to help the players?
There is plenty of money being spent in every county. I don’t accept that argument, no. Dublin have used their resources in a brilliant manner for the last 10 years and more and are reaping the rewards.
With the Super 8s set to revolutionise the All-Ireland series from next season, Fitzmaurice wasn’t averse to the competition being restructured further.
When it was proposed to him that the inter-county scene could follow its club equivalent and be divided into Senior, Intermediate and Junior-type divisions, Fitzmaurice admitted he hadn’t thought of such a radical reshuffle, and cast his mind back 17 years to the standalone introduction of an innovative tournament in his homeland.
“Maybe, yeah. I haven’t thought about that suggestion. You’d have to have a competition then like the Millennium Cup where you get knocked out at certain stages you go in to a certain competition.
“Everyone wants to win Sam Maguire at the end of the day, regardless of who much of an outsider you are.”
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