Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice believes the Kingdom’s All-Ireland SFC semi-final replay victory over Mayo could be a pivotal result in the development of his team.
Speaking to RTÉ Sport in the aftermath of the 3-16 to 3-13 extra-time win, Fitzmaurice conceded that the result could have gone either way and that a second replay looked very much on the cards at one stage.
“There was very little between the teams over the two days,” the Finuge clubman said.
“It took extra-time the second day and it wouldn’t have been beyond the realms of possibility to be heading for Dublin next weekend.”
Having surrendered a sizeable first-half advantage in the first drawn game, Kerry found themselves in a very different situation in the replay at the Gaelic Grounds as they trailed by a goal at the interval.
However, Fitzmaurice was confident his charges would rally in the second half based on their performances earlier in the season.
“Throughout the season usually we went in at half-time down. We played better in the second half.
“The last day we played very well in the first half, but in the second half we were disappointed with 25 to 30 minutes of it where Mayo took over the game and put us under severe pressure. But I think today in the second half we were going to keep going, and keep going, and stay here as long as it took.”
The Kerry supremo opined that resolve displayed may have been fortified by the younger players’ lack of All-Ireland silverware, saying: “There’s a massive desire in the group. A lot of those lads have no All-Ireland medal, some of our experienced lads have a couple, but a lot of those younger lads don’t have an All-Ireland medal at any grade.
So there’s a massive hunger in the group, there’s massive togetherness in the group, there’s great spirit there and I think that was visible definitely there today.”
Fitzmaurice also believes the gruelling nature of the two encounters with Mayo could act as a springboard ahead of the All-Ireland final.
“It’s fantastic for the group getting those kind of tests - mentally, physically and everything else. You can’t buy that in terms of training.
“We’re delighted to have got the two games, the extra-time, and obviously to have come out on the right side of it.”