Monday 24 September 2018

'I think I'm wasting my time in this job,' fumes Davy Fitzgerald

Kilkenny 0-22 Wexford 1-18 - Leinster SHC round-robin

A dejected Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald near the end of the Leinster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Round 5 match between Kilkenny and Wexford at Nowlan Park in Kilkenny. Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
A dejected Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald near the end of the Leinster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Round 5 match between Kilkenny and Wexford at Nowlan Park in Kilkenny. Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
Enda Morrissey of Kilkenny in action against Conor McDonald of Wexford during the Leinster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Round 5 match between Kilkenny and Wexford at Nowlan Park in Kilkenny. Photo: Sportsfile

Michael Verney

There's always a will with Kilkenny, and they always find a way.

Thirteen All-Ireland medals departed at the break - late additions Richie Hogan and Colin Fennelly were both hauled off - with no forward having scored from play in a first half totally dominated by Wexford.

Jack O'Connor of Wexford in action against Pádraig Walsh of Kilkenny during the Leinster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Round 5 match between Kilkenny and Wexford at Nowlan Park in Kilkenny. Photo: Sportsfile
Jack O'Connor of Wexford in action against Pádraig Walsh of Kilkenny during the Leinster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Round 5 match between Kilkenny and Wexford at Nowlan Park in Kilkenny. Photo: Sportsfile

Scarcely recognisable from last week's no-show against Galway, the Model men dictated the terms of engagement, with Cillian Buckley's role as Kilkenny sweeper negated as they hit the flanks with the majority of deliveries to stretch the Cats defence.

When Paudie Foley and Lee Chin fired over points within 90 seconds of the resumption, it looked like a similar pattern was about to emerge until TJ Reid broke from Matthew O'Hanlon's clutches to put his stamp on proceedings.

Perhaps, it was ironic that stars from Sky's A League Of their Own show - former England cricketer Freddie Flintoff and former Liverpool star Jamie Redknapp were part of a half-time hurling challenge - as it signalled a Kilkenny exhibition of why they are in a different league to most.

Brian Cody's men hit seven in a row - six from Reid and the other an inspirational score from Pádraig Walsh, who thrived when moved to wing-back - and amazingly, they were in front on the hour mark as Wexford legs wilted in the face of four games in 21 days.

Luke Scanlon of Kilkenny in action against Damien Reck of Wexford during the Leinster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Round 5 match between Kilkenny and Wexford at Nowlan Park in Kilkenny. Photo: Sportsfile
Luke Scanlon of Kilkenny in action against Damien Reck of Wexford during the Leinster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Round 5 match between Kilkenny and Wexford at Nowlan Park in Kilkenny. Photo: Sportsfile

They kept going to the well but there was simply nothing left, with Chin's 37th-minute score their last point from play as they relied on the defiance of Paudie Foley, who drove forward at every opportunity and kept them in touch from placed balls.

Kilkenny's bench was the difference with Richie Leahy and John Donnelly firing over twice apiece, while Joey Holden hit a rare point as they produced another epic comeback and used up another of their endless lives.

"It was really a tester for the players but they responded very well. We didn't even get a goal to come back and really shake it, we kind of worked, worked, worked. Everybody just really drove on and it was a great effort really from everybody," Cody said.

"Looking at it from the sideline it appeared that the work-rate from Wexford was colossal in the first half. They were dominating rucks, they were dominating breaking ball. I think we turned that around again.

"It's a tribute to all the players. The realisation again that seven points, nine points, in hurling it's not a big lead. It's a nice lead but it's not insurmountable if you keep hurling."

No lead is safe when the Cats are on the prowl but credit to Davy Fitzgerald's side. Having looked a spent force in the fourth quarter, they hung onto Kilkenny's coat-tails in an effort to snatch a share of the spoils, which would have been enough to secure a Leinster final berth.

Fitzgerald couldn't talk for the first 30 seconds of his post-match interview as he struggled to comprehend some of the officiating decisions which he thought turned the game. When he started, it was like a dam bursting.

"That's not right, I think I'm wasting my time in this job. I'm not going to say why but I am wasting my time," a fuming Fitzgerald said before adding. "There were frees given in one half and not given as easy in the other half - that's fact.

"I love the way Kilkenny play, I'll always admire it but we might as well waste our time if it's not 100pc across the board. There was one blatant foul in front of me and it wouldn't be a yellow card and it was blatant.

"It is hard to take when I saw two or three things in front of me where a free could have been given. Yet, if you look where the frees were scored from, I guarantee you - and I don't know the stats - they got a lot more scores from their frees than we got from ours. Look at the positions, look at where we got our frees.

"You can say I'm whinging - I'm not. I work on statistics, on fact."

After telling anyone that would listen last weekend to "put your house on Kilkenny", the Model boss hailed "a superhuman effort" from his charges but admitted that the hectic schedule took its toll when a second successive provincial final was in their grasp.

"I said to the boys on the sideline in the second half, 'the only thing that is going to catch us here, have we the energy to keep going?' If we had a week's break, we would have finished the game a lot stronger. Because we are as fit as anyone in the country."

The helter-skelter exchanges made a mockery of some assertions that neither side would be keen on meeting reigning Leinster and All-Ireland champions Galway again, something Fitzgerald wasn't best pleased about.

"That's the biggest joke ever. Are you telling me he (Cody) doesn't want to play Galway again? Of course he does. Are you telling me I don't want to? Of course I do, we want to go there.

"What's the only way you can get better? You go in against the best," Fitzgerald said.

Cody is adamant that the round-robin system needs to evaluated but avenging their comprehensive defeat to Galway is all that's on his mind for now. "We know the challenge that's there but that's brilliant. I mean we're facing a huge challenge," he said.

Scorers - Kilkenny: TJ Reid 0-11 (9fs, 1 '65'), R Leahy, C Fogarty, J Donnelly 0-2 each, P Walsh, E Morrissey, J Holden, E Murphy (f), James Maher 0-1 each. Wexford: R O'Connor (2fs), P Foley (4fs) 0-5 each, P Morris 1-1, L Chin 0-3, C McDonald 0-2, D O'Keeffe 0-1, K Foley 0-1

Kilkenny - E Murphy 8; P Murphy 7, P Walsh 8, P Deegan 8; C O'Shea 6, C Buckley 7, E Morrissey 7; C Fogarty 8, J Maher 7; W Walsh 6, C Fennelly 5, TJ Reid 8; B Sheehan 5, R Hogan 5, L Scanlon 6. Subs: M Keoghan 6 for Hogan, R Leahy 8 for Fennelly, J Holden 8 for O'Shea (all h-t), L Blanchfield 7 for Sheehan (46), J Donnelly 8 for Scanlon (64).

Wexford - M Fanning 7; D Reck 7, L Ryan 7, C Firman 7; P Foley 8, M O'Hanlon 7, D O'Keeffe 6; K Foley 6, S Murphy 7; D Dunne 6, A Nolan 6, L Chin 7; P Morris 7, R O'Connor 7, C McDonald 7. Subs: H Kehoe 6 for K Foley and J O'Connor 6 for Dunne (both 54), S Donohoe 6 for O'Keeffe (63), S Tomkins for Morris (70).

Ref - J McGrath (Westmeath)

Irish Independent

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