Wednesday 1 March 2017

'If Davy Fitzgerald was knocked out he would still get the message to his team'

Michael Verney

Davy Fitzgerald and (inset) Brendan Cummins
Davy Fitzgerald and (inset) Brendan Cummins
Cummins: “Davy is a really organised man and I’d say whether the man was in a coma, knocked out, whatever the case may be, he’ll be getting messages into his group and keeping the fire lit under them." Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile

Their playing careers were intertwined, and knowing Davy Fitzgerald's competitive instincts, Brendan Cummins expects the Clare boss to do whatever it takes to get his message through to his troops despite his recent health scare.

As former goalkeepers they share a particular bond, and Tipperary legend Cummins was quick to wish his old adversary a speedy recovery after his minor heart surgery this week, nine years after a similar operation.

Questions surround whether Fitzgerald will man the line for Sunday's All-Ireland quarter-final clash with Galway but Cummins is confident that nothing will stop him playing an important part.

And with a strong backroom team including Donal Óg Cusack, Louis Mulqueen and Paul Kinnerk, the two-time All-Ireland winner doesn't see recent events as a great inconvenience and believes the squad will carry on with business as usual.

"It's certainly a tricky one because Davy's such a great leader to these Clare players but he's got a strong backroom team with Donal Óg in there as well and they'll have it well planned, there's no doubt about that - players get on about their business now four or five days before a match," Cummins says.

"They know there's no excuses if they lose Sunday evening, the fact that Davy was in or out of the hospital. Obviously everybody, sport aside, is wishing him a speedy recovery and all, but when you're inside there you just want to win the match and that's it.

"Davy is a really organised man and I'd say whether the man was in a coma, knocked out, whatever the case may be, he'll be getting messages into his group and keeping the fire lit under them.

"They'll be fine and hopefully he'll be back on the line again at the weekend."

Fitzgerald's side regrouped since their Munster semi-final defeat to Waterford, and the league champions lay their championship credentials on the line in Semple Stadium against a Galway side still smarting from some cutting criticism after another second-half collapse against Kilkenny.

Speaking ahead of his bid for a tenth M Donnelly All-Ireland Poc Fada crown in the Cooley Mountains next Saturday, Cummins gave his two cents on Ger Loughnane's remarks that the current Galway crop is "gutless".

Cummins can relate to "frustration" given the exceptional talent at Galway's disposal and feels they need their big players to deliver when games are in the melting pot, much like Tyrone skipper Sean Cavanagh in last week's Ulster football decider.

"They've gotten slated more times. . . everyone and their mother has had an opinion on them," he says.

"We've got as much stick in Tipp but at least we win an All-Ireland every ten years or so which kind of takes the pressure off a small bit, whereas Galway have been different.

"But I do find it surprising that the last two matches that they played Kilkenny in Croke Park, they didn't absolutely cut loose.

"I mean, a lot of us will recognise from a hurling point of view that some teams will be better on a given day but that doesn't stop you from trying your damnedest to win.

"And if you're a marquee player. . . Joe (Canning) has come in for a lot of the criticism. . . if you are a marquee player like Sean Cavanagh in the football, turned what was five sweepers in front of him, belittled all of them, they were hanging out of him and kicked it over the bar.

"Next thing, (Peter) Harte comes up the pitch on the strength of it, goes through all those sweepers and kicks it over the bar. The catalyst for that was Cavanagh.

"I mean Joe and these marquee players. . . like Henry (Shefflin) has done in the past, Eoin Kelly for us, to leave your legacy (on the game).

"I think when Ger spoke at the time it was more out of frustration because you see unbelievable hurlers like this and I want to go down and shake them and say 'come on, just express yourself, you'll regret it otherwise'.

"There is a jibe going on in his comments but also frustration as a hurling man."

Last year's All-Ireland semi-final heartache at the hands of the Tribesmen hurt Cummins and Tipp but what cut deeper was their second-half no-show on hurling's biggest stage and he hopes they bounce back and give this year's underwhelming season a massive shot in the arm.

"I was thinking 'maybe Galway have arrived' but I was twice as angry leaving the stadium after the All-Ireland final when I thought 'we would have done better than that'," he says.

"You'd players standing waiting for others to do it and you just felt 'let's bust through those glass ceilings for yourselves lads'. It must be real hard for them inside but they're the only ones that can fix it."

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