Davy Fitzgerald: Clare can thrive once they avoid 'stupid stuff'
Clare 0-27 Wexford 1-17
As a Clare native, Davy Fitzgerald will be supporting the Banner County for the remainder of the All-Ireland hurling championship - but has pleaded to his fellow county men and women to allow the team to flourish.
On Saturday in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Fitzgerald's Wexford trailed by seven points at half-time before Conor McDonald's goal and Rory O'Connor's frees brought them to within three.
However, while Clare had allowed an eight-point lead to slip in the Munster final against Cork, here they were able to regroup and pushed on to advance to a semi-final meeting with Galway on Saturday week.
It's a game Fitzgerald thinks they can win, if the right approach is taken.
"The sooner the public in Clare let that team play the way they should be playing, they have a chance of doing something," he said.
"If they stay doing that stupid stuff of hitting the ball long all the time, they won't win anything. They need to work the ball the way they were working it today. That is what works for that team. Myself and the lads, we wish Clare the best of luck. It is crucial (to) let that team play.
"If we managed to score them two or three points when we got back into it, trust me, I don't think we would have been beaten. We weren't the better team. The better team should have been up a bit more.
"When we got the second goal chance and the few point-scoring opportunities, if we had taken them, it could have been an interesting finish."
Clare led by 0-16 to 0-9 after a first half in which all of their forwards scored, with The Model County reliant on the frees of O'Connor while Conor McDonald also performed well, and while they opened the second half with points from Diarmuid O'Keeffe and Lee Chin, Clare responded through the impressive Shane O'Donnell and Peter Duggan.
By the 57th minute, Clare had pushed eight clear but then Wexford had a lifeline as sub Harry Kehoe broke a delivery to McDonald, who finished to the net. After another O'Donnell point for Clare - he would finish with four - Wexford almost struck again but Liam Óg McGovern's shot was saved by Donal Tuohy.
While three Rory O'Connor frees had brought Wexford back to within three, their shooting prevented them from coming closer and Clare saw out the game well.
Joint-manager Gerry O'Connor felt they had done well to avoid playing into the hands of Wexford's sweeper set-up.
"Our guys are well used to the sweeper system," he said.
"When you've played it for a number of years, you realise that there are opportunities there that can be exploited.
"What we spoke about all week was not hitting ball down the throat of the sweeper. It was about cutting out the sweeper and getting the ball into John (Conlon) in the outside line, building play and making sure there were lots of receivers on the 10 and 12 positions and taking your points from out there."
And, while he acknowledged that Tuohy's save was important, O'Connor felt that the goalkeeper's distribution was just as impressive. "Donal Tuohy, to be fair, has been playing really well, from a puckout view and in terms of shot-stopping all season," he said.
"He would have been disappointed if a ball beat him on his left side anyway, but, having said that, it was an excellent stop.
"I'd be far more impressed with his puckouts, he found Tony Kelly regularly.
"The main thing is that it's about getting over the line here today. There was a small crowd here, it's debatable whether asking guys from Clare and Wexford on a Saturday at 3 o'clock, it's a difficult time for a lot of people to get down here.
"What I will say is that the support from both Clare and Wexford that were here, they made their voices heard."
The reigning champions lie in wait, but O'Connor is looking forward to the challenge.
"I don't remember playing them competitively at senior level," he said, "we played them back at underage.
"It'll be a massive test. I think the scoreline against Kilkenny last week probably flattered Kilkenny slightly, I think Galway were by far the better team, they probably switched off a bit.
"For the last two and a half months, it has been one and two-week breaks. We had a two-week break from the Munster final to this game today.
"You had so little time to dwell on a defeat or a victory, the way this format is, it worked well to our advantage. We were able to condense a lot of preparation into the last two weeks.
"Basically, we'll get away and we'll plan for Galway, as we've been planning for everybody. It's a two-week window again, which will suit us better than a shorter or longer turnaround."
Scorers - Clare: P Duggan 0-7 (5f), T Kelly 0-5, S O'Donnell 0-4, J Conlon 0-3, P Collins, D Reidy 0-2 each, S Morey, C Malone, C McGrath, I Galvin 0-1 each. Wexford: R O'Connor 0-10 (9f), C McDonald 1-3, D Reck, S Murphy, D O'Keeffe, L Chin 0-1 each.
Clare: D Tuohy 8; J Browne 8, D McInerney 7, P O'Connor 7; S Morey 6, C Cleary 7, J Shanahan 7; C Galvin 6, C Malone 7; P Duggan 7, T Kelly 8, D Reidy 8; P Collins 7, J Conlon 8, S O'Donnell 8. Subs: C McGrath for Collins (27-29, blood), D Fitzgerald 7 for C Galvin (58), I Galvin 7 for Reidy (61), C McGrath for Duggan (67), M O'Malley for Malone (70), R Hayes for Browne (70).
Wexford: M Fanning 7; D Reck 7, L Ryan 6, C Firman 6; S Murphy 6; D O'Keeffe 7, P Foley 6, M O'Hanlon 7; K Foley 6, A Nolan 7; R O'Connor 8, L Chin 6, C McDonald 7; D Dunne 6, L Óg McGovern 6. Subs: J O'Connor 6 for Nolan (49), H Kehoe 6 for K Foley (57), S Donohoe for P Foley (61), W Devereux for O'Keeffe (66).
Ref - F Horgan (Tipperary).
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