It is believed that both manager Paidi O Se and county chairman Sean Walsh have been in contact with Fitzgerald and that the player is keen to rejoin the panel. However, in a story in the Sunday Tribune newspaper, it was also revealed that Fitzgerald is unwilling to take a full part in Kerry’s demanding training regimen as set out by O Se and John O’Keeffe.
“It’s 90 percent certain that Maurice will back for next year’s championship,” said a source close to the player. “Maurice isn’t looking for a guarantee that he’ll start. The only stumbling block if he avoids injury is whether he’ll have to do the training John O’Keeffe has insisted on in the past. Maurice believes that if he’d gone through that kind of training, he wouldn’t be as fresh as he’s felt this year.”
Amid rumors of a rift between player and manager, Fitzgerald was controversially used as a substitute throughout Kerry’s triumphant 2000 All-Ireland campaign, before winning back his starting spot the following season. But he was then substituted in both of the county’s Munster championship games before being relegated to the role of impact sub in the All-Ireland series.
“You have to remember that the main problem in the past wasn’t that Maurice had a personality clash with Paidi,” said the source, “it was that Johnno’s training didn’t suit Maurice. Johnno’s contention was that Maurice wasn’t fit and that irritated Maurice something fierce, but essentially Paidi agreed with Johnno. Now he might feel differently.”
Fitzgerald, who turned 33 earlier this month, has been in outstanding form for his club, St. Mary’s of Caherciveen. all year. He was the inspiration behind St. Mary’s wins over Dr. Crokes in the county league and over Waterville in the South Kerry divisional final. Earlier, representing South Kerry, he kicked seven points in a narrow loss to a star-studded An Ghaeltacht side.
Beaten in this year’s All-Ireland decider by Armagh, and humiliated in the 2001 semifinal by Meath, Kerry are obviously keen to have a player of Fitzgerald’s class back in the picture. Maybe they watched with interest at the flexibility allowed to DJ Carey in Kilkenny in the past season. If the three time All-Star returns, not just Kerry football will be the winner.