Darran O'Sullivan: I won't drag out retirement decision
It would be hard to not respect the honesty of Eamonn Fitzmaurice.
I was in and out of the team in the past couple of years, and injuries weren’t too kind to me, but he was always fair and called it straight. You knew where you stood, everyone was treated the same, and he didn’t try to plamás you. So, even when I wasn’t getting on the field enough for my liking, my respect for him never wavered.
We came up short this year but I’m confident everyone in the camp would say we wanted for nothing. Everything was catered for, we were monitored so well throughout the season, there was a serious bond in the set-up, and it was hugely enjoyable. I don’t think anyone inside the camp would have a bad word to say or point the finger at him for Kerry coming up short in 2018.
Eamonn has finished up and he’s spoken this week about getting unsavoury letters. That’s been going on for years and, for the most part, we’ve always just laughed off that sort of thing and made a joke of it in the dressing-room. What does irk me, is that the people who take the time to write these letters probably don’t understand the commitment that goes in, and they might not know what’s going on in a player’s life.
In the modern world, with social media, people seem to be obsessed with their opinions and getting them out there. There’s such a sense of self-importance that goes into behaving this way, and that would be my gripe with it.
We won one All-Ireland during Eamonn’s six years in charge, not to mention six Munster titles and a league crown — which is a fine haul. Of course, in Kerry, it’s All-Irelands, All-Irelands, All-Irelands, and that’s just the way it is. What people forget is that he took over a team that was in a period of transition, that had lost some huge names, and yet we never dropped outside the top two or three during his time in charge.
Obviously 2018 didn’t go the way we wanted it to, but we were always competing during his reign. You can’t ignore the strength of Dublin either during this time, they have been awesome.
I know it might sound stupid now that we’re gone, but I was really looking forward to getting a crack at the Dubs this year. We were flying in Munster and I just think the break before the Super 8s halted our momentum. We were in bad form then for a couple of weeks against Galway and Monaghan, and it really cost us.
I don’t think management can be blamed for it because, as I’ve already explained, everything was in place for us. Sometimes you have to just say that the players didn’t perform. I think Dublin can be stopped, but you’d have to compliment how well Jim Gavin has brought through new players to compensate for the aging of some key men. Niall Scully, Con O’Callaghan, and now the likes of Eoin Murchan. They’re a great side.
The future is bright for Kerry football too, I’m certain of that. A lot has been made of the minor successes but there is a huge difference between a good minor footballer and a good senior player. Sometimes life gets in the way for young lads: they go to college, or spend summers in America, and football can take a back seat. So, the key is to at least bring through one or two every year and build from there. The other thing worth noting is that minor titles don’t necessarily mean it will happen at senior — for example, my team didn’t win but we did okay once we stepped up.
What is key for players such as David Clifford and Sean O’Shea is that they have the right mentality to play at the top level, and we’ve already seen that they have. Being mentally tough, being able to take things in your stride, it's so important now.
I sometimes wonder if experienced players should stand aside for the youth or stay to help guide them through. I’m 32 now, and I’m very much at a crossroads of whether I’ll retire or stay on. The few days after we got knocked out, all I’m thinking is “that’s it”, but I need to let it settle in for a big firstly. I won't drag the decision out for too long. I’ll sit down with some other lads who have been in this position, and chat with my family too. I got married in September of last year, myself and Laura are expecting our first child this November, and I opened a bar/restaurant with my dad on Rossbeigh Beach a couple of years ago. I’ve barely had a minute to spend with Laura since opening the business, as it’s been so full-on, so I’m very much unsure if I’ll play on with Kerry for a 15th season.
No matter who is there, the future is bright for the Kingdom.