KERRY ARE ON the hunt for a new senior manager for the first time since 2012 following Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s decision to step down on Saturday night.

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Just four men have managed Kerry since 1995 – Paidi Ó Sé, Jack O’Connor (twice), Pat O’Shea and Fitzmaurice. After delivering one league crown, six Munsters and an All-Ireland over six years, Fitzmaurice decided to end his tenure in charge.

He confirmed his resignation in the wake of the Super 8s win over Kildare in Killarney, which wasn’t enough to see them advance to the All-Ireland semi-finals.

In his final post-game press conference, Fitzmaurice said he hoped his departure would remove some of the negativity surrounding the team, particularly that directed towards the younger players.

“I think part of that was down to the fact that I was there for so long and that, maybe, I was a lightning rod for that negativity and criticism,” he stated.

It’s a very attractive position for prospective managers with a talented young core emerging and several All-Ireland winners from 2014 still relatively young. The Kingdom are in need of a better defensive structure but they will be expected to heavily challenge Dublin for All-Irelands over the next five years.

So who’s in line to replace Fitzmaurice?

Pat O’Shea, Liam Kearns, Jack O’Connor and Peter Keane

Favourites

It’s long been speculated that Jack O’Connor fancies a third crack at the job. His last stint in the hot-seat ended in 2012 – with Fitzmaurice his replacement. O’Connor went back to work on Kerry’s underage system and struck gold with All-Ireland minor wins in 2014 and 2015.

He then led the U21s and U20s to Munster glory in 2017 and 2018 respectively. Both sides were beaten at the All-Ireland semi-final stage.

The other frontrunner is current minor boss Peter Keane, who oversaw the All-Ireland wins of 2016 and 2017. As club manager, he led his native St. Mary’s Cahirciveen to the All-Ireland junior title in 2011. The Kerry minors won a third Munster crown under Keane this season and are currently preparing for an All-Ireland semi-final against Monaghan this weekend.

Former Limerick and Laois manager Liam Kearns has been in charge of Tipperary for the past three seasons. He masterminded their run to the All-Ireland semi-finals in 2016, while Armagh and Mayo have eliminated them in the qualifiers in the past two years.

Kearns is a native of Tralee and the attractive brand of football he likes to play would be viewed favourably.

Another former manager Pat O’Shea could throw his hat in the ring. He managed Kerry in 2007 and 2008, winning the All-Ireland in his first season and losing the final to Tyrone the following year. On St Patrick’s Day in 2017 he led Dr Crokes to the All-Ireland senior club title and remains in charge of the Killarney side.

Laois boss John Sugrue could be a contender for the role

Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Outsiders

Renard club man John Sugrue led Laois to promotion from Division 4 this year and to their first Leinster final since 2007, all the while playing good attacking football.

He showed his tactical nous with their more possession-based running game against the extremely defensive Carlow, and with the way Laois tried to expose the lack of height in the Dublin full-back line.

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Sugrue was Kerry’s physical trainer during the O’Shea reign, worked as a physio with the Kingdom in 2011 and with Laois in 2012 and 2013. More recently, he led South Kerry to the county senior football championship title in 2015.

Donie Buckley celebrates Mayo’s 2017 All-Ireland semi-final replay win over Kerry with Donal Vaughan

Source: Lorraine O’Sullivan/INPHO

Castleisland native Donie Buckley is a vastly experienced coach who recently departed the Mayo set-up, having been an ever-present in their dressing room since 2013 when he was recruited by James Horan.

Prior to that, he worked as a coach with Kerry and Limerick and was manager for Galway side Moycullen’s run to the All-Ireland intermediate club crown in 2008. It’s unclear whether Buckley fancies stepping up into a managerial role.

Former players

There are a host of former players who would be interested in the role but Kerry would only consider a handful with credible coaching experience.

Former goalkeeper Diarmuid Murphy leads this group given he served as a selector under both Fitzmaurice and O’Connor. His expertise on the sideline is highly-rated in the county.

Diarmuid Murphy was selector under Fitzmaurice

Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Legendary forward Maurice Fitzgerald was part of Fitzmaurice’s backroom team over the past couple of years and led St Mary’s top the All-Ireland intermediate title in 2016. He has been heavily involved as a coach with Coláiste na Sceilge school teams.

Former midfielder Mike Quirke is currently in charge of his native Kerins O’Rahillys, having served as co-manager for two seasons before that. He also has a masters in performance coaching.

Ex-captain Liam Hassett served as a selector under Fitzmaurice and is another name being linked with the top job.

Long shot

Current Wicklow boss John Evans didn’t rule himself out of the running during an appearance on Off The Ball at the weekend but is unlikely to be considered.

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Who do you think should get the job?

Poll Results:

Jack O'Connor (3093)

Liam Kearns (1702)

Peter Keane (1412)

Maurice Fitzgerald (1144)

Pat O'Shea (632)

John Evans (595)

Donie Buckley (566)

 John Sugrue (523)

Diarmuid Murphy (302)

Liam Hassett (160)

Mike Quirke (150)

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