Monday 22 July 2019

Heroes one and all

Bond between Davy and players leads to Leinster glory

Members of the Senior and Minor teams with the O’Keeffe and Hanrahan Cups after claiming a double for Wexford for the first time since 1970 in Croke Park on Sunday
Members of the Senior and Minor teams with the O’Keeffe and Hanrahan Cups after claiming a double for Wexford for the first time since 1970 in Croke Park on Sunday

Brendan Furlong, Sports reporter

Davy Fitzgerald finally let it be known what attracted him to Wexford in the aftermath of Wexford's Leinster Senior hurling final victory over Kilkenny on Sunday.

'We were kind of a good fit. They're half mad, I'm half-mad,' he said.

'I remember when I went to Wexford first a lot of people told me "don't bother, they haven't a chance of doing anything". I know they (the players) doubted they were they good enough to do stuff. But that belief kept growing.

'If you look back to 2015, I think Kilkenny beat Wexford by 20-odd points, so I don't think anyone would have thought of delivering a Leinster title within four years. So I'm just delighted that they showed they can bridge a gap and come back into it.'

Fitzgerald also referenced Michael O'Brien, the young Kerry lad who stole the show when meeting his hero on last December's Late Late Toy Show, as an inspiration for the county atoning for the Leinster final loss to Galway in his first year at the helm.

'I'd like to think the lads are humble. We do bring a lot of people in around us that aren't as fortunate. You take young Michael from Kerry that came into us this year - if you'd seen the speech he gave before the Tipp game.

'All the boys thought I put him up to it, I didn't say a word to him. He actually told them it's about time they start living their dream. This is a young guy that was blind and it registered big time with the lads.

Fitzgerald was delighted with what his players showed, with the sides being level on ten occasions during the course of the 70 minutes, with so little separating them at any stage of the game.

'The thing I loved about the lads was that we didn't buckle. We went a point or two down a few times, but if you look at the end of that game, we were getting stronger the longer the game kept going.

'We came here to play, we didn't come to freeze.

'Two years ago we played unreal against Kilkenny in the semi-final, [and] I don't think we hit the same heights against Galway in the 2017 final.

'I think tactically I was found out as well. There were a few things I had to learn and I did learn them.

'The battles with Kilkenny are incredible. I would have incredible respect for their manager and for their county.

'I'm not afraid of Kilkenny and never have been, but I respect them and want to train my teams to compete with them and beat them if they can.

'That's a mark of respect to them and what they've done for hurling over the last 15 years. They're still there and going no place. I wouldn't like to be the team that will meet them.'

Now looking ahead to the All-Ireland semi-final on July 27-28, Fitzgerald said: 'Whatever they're talking about, winning or losing, I don't really care to tell you the truth. Whatever's to come I'll worry about that during the week.

'I haven't a notion of worrying about anything right now, I'm going to enjoy this and that's for sure. We'll think about what's coming down the road but we're going to go back to Wexford and we're going to let the people of Wexford enjoy this.

'I'm going down to Wexford, making people smile, and it's just been a great journey. I kind of don't want it to stop. But we'll see what happens.'

Meanwhile, the Wexford Minor hurlers ended a 34-year barren spell without a provincial title when they turned in a storming finish to see off the challenge of neighbours, Kilkenny, in one of the best finals for some time.

The 3-14 to 3-10 victory, achieved after a burst of 1-5 on the trot from Wexford, means that the county claimed the Leinster Senior and Minor double for the first time since 1970.

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