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Davy's fury as Cats deliver

THERE were no Ger Loughnane-like premonitions of Munster glory from Davy Fitzgerald in Semple Stadium yesterday just as the great man miraculously and famously announced in defeat back in 1995.

There was, however, a certain Banner familiarity about his post-match media address, an amazing rant which read more like a victim impact statement in its delivery than the customary back-and-forth with the fourth estate.

Clare's league ended with a 1-20 to 0-14 defeat to Kilkenny, a result which Fitzgerald was at pains to point out he had absolutely no argument with whatsoever.

But the Kilkenny goal, tapped in by Matthew Ruth after 41 minutes -- and more specifically, the chain of events which led to the score -- vexed Davy sufficiently to pour his stream of vitriol all over the Kinnane Stand tunnel in Semple Stadium.

"The goal changed it. I don't have to tell you about that decision," he opened with, before unleashing all hell.

Fitzgerald's gripe was three-fold. Firstly, he reckoned the lineball from whence the score originated should have gone Clare's way, a marginal call which, in fairness to referee, Alan Kelly, and his linesman, was close to impossible to decipher in real time.

Then -- and here Davy certainly has a point -- he felt Eoin Larkin had turned "two or three times" prior to snapping off a shot which was saved by Pat Kelly before Ruth -- who lurched suspectly close to the Clare square -- knocked in the rebound.

Either way, Clare's manager unloaded his grievances in spectacular fashion, claiming the decisions -- or lack of them -- were symptomatic of first, preferential officiating to hurling's aristocracy, and then, a wider conspiracy against Fitzgerald himself.

"Are the referees afraid to make a mistake when it's the big teams?," he fumed. "Are they afraid they won't get a bigger match? We have to start standing up now.

"I think they will give them to the bigger sides," he added, expanding the point. "That's my feeling, They're afraid. I could see it. He (Kelly) was wondering whether to blow or not. At the end of the day, they were deserving winners. They had some lovely scores but that kind of killed us." It went on ...

The Sixmilebridge clubman then revealed he had approached Kelly at half-time, asking, "'Can I have a minute?' And he ignored me altogether, as if I was dirt.

"I honestly believe the referees have something in for myself. I just think it's 'I'll sort Davy out' and that's the story. I think a number of referees have that so I'll be asking everyone to keep a close eye on the Championship and see do they take it out on me and my team because it's happened now on more than one occasion with myself as far as I am concerned.

"They ignore me completely, maybe they mightn't do it to Brian (Cody) or the Declan Ryans of this world but when it comes to me, you are not allowed say anything or have any animation or question anything. That's disappointing."

Fitzgerald's speech was the most notable event of an otherwise prosaic affair, one from which Clare will escape with plenty of credit all the same.

They gave Kilkenny plenty of it physically, coughed up just two goal chances and generally made life uncomfortable for the All-Ireland champions, a feat which shouldn't be patronised.

They hadn't, however, the same polish or power to the attacking side of the game and so lost on a tokenistic scoreline.

It must be pointed out, also -- as Brian Cody did after the match -- that Kilkenny's other goal chance could easily have been as pivotal as the disputed Ruth score had it been converted.

Larkin had sidestepped Kelly and been taken down by Brendan Bugler before dribbling the ball over the line in the first half, a running play which is generally rewarded with the goal.

But Kelly instead signaled penalty and Richie Power's low strike was saved on the line by Patrick Donnellan.

"We could have had the ball in the net in the first half but as the ball was going over the line we got a penalty," Cody surmised. "That was a big boost for Clare, we got no return from it." With Ruth bagging 1-3, Richie Power clipping 0-9 (6f) and brothers Michael and Colin Fennelly adding a brace each, it looked like Kilkenny had, if required, another gear to reach for if needed.

But it was Fitzgerald's tirade -- and Clare's competitiveness -- which could transpire to be the most significant events of the day.

He went on: "Three of the players came to me afterwards and said 'is this f****** right? We're bursting our arses and it feels like we're never going to get the rub of the green ourselves playing the likes of them'.

"They are frustrated and I'm frustrated. We know we wouldn't have beaten Kilkenny today," Fitzgerald added, "but it might have been a bit closer if that goal had not got in at that time."