Sunday 24 September 2017

O'Grady remains upbeat despite late sucker punch

John Harrington

All last week Waterford manager Davy Fitzgerald gave John Mullane a hard time in training about the scarcity of goals he's scored in the championship in the last couple of years.

Again and again he needled him, but he's going to have to change the record now. Two goals, the second a scorching last-minute match-winner, have earned Mullane some well-deserved grace.

"I can't say much to him after that," smiled Fitzgerald as he held court in the bowels of Semple Stadium after yesterday's tumultuous match.

"I never believed we were gone though, because of the forwards we have. We'll always create an opportunity.

"The lads will tell you it's the one thing we always say at training -- that you will get an opportunity if you just stay working and don't give up."

Fitzgerald never believed his boys were beaten, and Limerick manager Donal O'Grady never allowed himself to hope his side had won it.

And as soon as Eoin Kelly floated that ball across the pitch to where Mullane was waiting in splendid isolation, the caution in his heart turned to cold dread.

"It came to the wrong man at the wrong time," sighed the Limerick manager. "If a fella was near him that could maybe haul him down, you'd have gone with that!

"If I had a megaphone ... But unfortunately the way the ball broke, it went in off Tom Condon's shoulder, and this brought it up over Nicky Quaid's hurley.

"If you could stop the play and ask could somebody else from Waterford get that ball, you'd have said we'll take that. Mullane, I'd describe him as a sort of assassin: he pounces, and that's it."

His Limerick players had trooped off the field with the shell-shocked expressions of soldiers returning from the front-line, but O'Grady himself was in remarkably sanguine mood after the match.

An appearance in a Munster final would have plugged Limerick hurling back into the mains, now only time will tell if they have the batteries to power a run through the qualifiers.

"With destiny and fate, maybe we might have missed it, who knows?" said O'Grady philosophically. "I think though it was a good display."

"There wasn't a huge crowd here, but I think they got top-class entertainment, for amateur players from both sides they got full-blooded effort and I'm very proud of what our players served up.

"When you lose a game in the last minute you're always looking for positives and I suppose we lasted the pace well.

"I think the youngsters stood up well and just that bit of luck at the end would have brought us home. But that's the way things go.

"We can't have any cribs, we did our best and that's all I asked the players to do. If you give of your best, you can't do any more and I think they did that.

STANDARDS

"If we can get back up to those standards for the next match, we'll see where it takes us and that's all we can do."

This match taught O'Grady a lot about his team and confirmed Fitzgerald's faith in his. He knows they're far from perfect yet and will need to improve considerably for the Munster final, but he's in no doubt either about the steel in their spines.

"We didn't play as well as we can play, but the character they showed is immense. I am really proud of the boys. I couldn't say a word against them.

"We might get beaten some time in this championship, but it will take a fair team. We won't throw in the towel. We will keep going, even if we go down five or six points.

"We will keep believing. This team won't give up -- I can promise you that."

Irish Independent

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