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'That's where I started to pick up on the free-taking, watching him': Bryan Sheehan on Maurice Fitz

Sheehan announced his retirement on Sunday after 13 seasons with the Kerry seniors.

Bryan Sheehan misses a free in injury time which would have won the game for his side Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Bryan Sheehan misses a free in injury time which would have won the game for his side Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

BRYAN SHEEHAN WILL be remembered as one of the finest dead-ball strikers in GAA history, and he credits Maurice Fitzgerald as the man who helped him hone his craft as a youngster.

Sheehan, who announced his retirement from inter-county football last Sunday, hails from St Mary’s Cahersiveen - the same club as Kerry legend Fitzgerald.

“In my younger days when my father was still playing a bit of football with the (St Mary’s) senior team, he would tell me to watch the likes of Maurice who was on the Kerry scene at the time,” Sheehan told Radio Kerry’s Terrace Talk last night.

“That’s where I started to pick up on the free-taking, watching him. Going home then, putting the ball in the backyard and practising kicking it over the bar.

“When he was in the middle of his prime and playing with Kerry, he was always down practising his kicking in Cahirsiveen. When you see the work ethic he was putting into it, it was a great bar for me to note what standards were required to play at that level.

“The general advice he would give you would be about the big games and how to approach them. The work I saw him doing down in Con Keating Park really set the bar for me for what is required to play at that level.”

Sheehan played in goals for the Kerry minors for two years, the first while he was still U16, lining out alongside future senior stars Colm Cooper, Declan O’Sullivan and Kieran Donaghy.

In his third season with the Kingdom minors he made the move outfield and left his goalkeeping days firmly behind him.

“(Playing in goal) really helped me with my free-taking as well. When you’re inside in goal you’re just trying to get the most distance and height you can on the ball and I think that really helped my free-taking down the line.

“Especially the distance ones where you had to put more into it and get the balance right with accuracy.”

Bryan Sheehan Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

He made his senior debut for the county in 2005 and played for 13 seasons, as Kerry made it to an incredible five straight All-Ireland finals between 2005-09.

“How lucky was I to come in and be involved with Kerry in 2004 and contest every All-Ireland final up to 2009? What an introduction to Kerry football. I was very, very lucky to be involved with such a fantastic team and players.

“I remember my first time walking into the old dressing rooms in Killarney and just to see the faces there…you had the likes of Dara O Cinneide, Johnny Crowley, Darragh O Se, Paul Galvin, they were household names and still only in the middle of their career back then.

“It was fantastic to be involved in a set-up like that and I was very, very lucky I came upon a team that was that successful and had the calibre of players we had. It’s definitely where I learned an awful lot from watching the likes of them train. When you’re playing with good players like that it improves you.”

Eamonn Fitzmaurice, Johnny Buckley and Bryan Sheehan before the game Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Speaking about his retirement, the 32-year-old said he hung up his boots for two major reasons.

“It wasn’t something I thought of overnight. It’s not easy to walk away from playing with Kerry, especially when I was playing for so long and something I loved doing. It just came down to a couple of factors.

“Number one being the age I was, the way the game has gone, the mileage on the clock, I’ve had a couple of injuries – in particular hamstirng issues in the year gone. The main factor for me was the enjoyment of it.

“I probably wasn’t playing as much football as I would have liked and if you’re not happy doing something like that there’s no point being there. When I put them all together the decision was there for me that it was time to step away.”

Kerry's James O'Donoghue, Bryan Sheehan and Aidan O'Mahony celebrate at the final whistle James O'Donoghue, Bryan Sheehan and Aidan O'Mahony celebrate the 2014 win Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Sheehan, who retires with five All-Ireland medals, cited the 2014 decider as his sweetest All-Ireland and the 2011 defeat to Dublin as his biggest disapointment.

“The one in 2014 seems to be one that stands out in my mind (as the sweetest). I think it’s because nobody gave us a chance and we were being written off. We’d a bad league campaign, things weren’t going well for us and people said we came out of nowhere.

“That’s a great sign of a team that when you’re being written off like that you can put in performances and win the All-Ireland. There was something special about the 2014 one.”

“(The 2011 final) was a game that we had it, we were in control of it. I thought we were the better team throughout and it just slipped away from us in the last five minutes.

“You have to give credit to Dublin as they still had to go on to win the All-Ireland, they had to get the goals and the point to win it and they did. For me that was one of the hardest ones to take.”

The42 has just published its first book, Behind The Lines, a collection of some of the year’s best sports stories. Pick up your copy in Eason’s, or order it here today (€10):

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Kevin O'Brien

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