Sunday 17 November 2019

'I won't do it again' says a fired-up Fitzgerald

Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald reacts during the Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Semi-Final match between Wexford and Tipperary. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald reacts during the Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Semi-Final match between Wexford and Tipperary. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

"I won't do it again," said Davy Fitzgerald with a roguish grin, like a child who had just raided the sweet drawer before promising never to repeat the crime while the chocolate stains are still fresh on his lips.

As compelling as the action on the pitch was, the Wexford manager's on-field excursion, which saw him lock horns with Niall O'Meara before engaging in a shoving match with Jason Forde, was the talk of Nowlan Park and the hurling world.

Such instances are ten a penny on a weekly basis at club level, but are a rarity at inter-county. After being harshly treated when James Breen was clearly fouled, at least twice, in the build-up to Tipp's second goal, Fitzgerald (pictured)felt his reaction was warranted, adding: "A decision like that can turn a whole game."

While lauding Diarmuid Kirwan's refereeing display - the free count was 15-3 in the Model's favour - there was method in his madness as he sought to gee up his own side while breaking the Premier momentum.

"When Tipp start to get a blitz on you, you just have to... just try to make sure I could lift my lads a small bit. They responded after that, which was no harm, with a bit of fight. As it worked out, it didn't do any harm," Fitzgerald said.

The actions of Wexford's pied piper had the 19,095 strong attendance enthralled and while there's no doubting the fire he brings to every game he's involved in, his grounds for avoiding reprimand may not hold weight in any GAA court.

"I don't think they'd do that to me. It would be no fun if I was up there (in the stands). You'd have nothing to write about if I'm up there! I know ye'll do me all the favours under the sun tomorrow, saying that shouldn't happen. Whatever it is, it is. I'd like to think common sense… I won't do it again if that's any consolation."

Despite the shell shock of conceding two first-half goals, Wexford responded with all the exuberance which has made them the success story of the spring as they trailed by just two on the hour mark.

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It looked like game on, but it was soon game over.

A goal apiece from the brilliant McGrath brothers, Noel and John, sparked 2-4 without reply and while Fitzgerald had his side forewarned, defeat brings lessons that a victory never would.

"That was us, that wasn't Tipp," was his assessment of the blitz.

"That was us switching off, that was us going from exactly the stuff we worked on. When we came back under a small bit of pressure at the very end and they got the first goal, we switched off and went back to the old habits.

"We'll knock that out of them. That won't happen again I can tell you. I learned more in those eight minutes - the amount of stuff I'll be able to show them because you can't leave Tipperary loose. When our fella in the hole left the hole that's when the trouble came. You can't leave the hole."

Fitzgerald may have felt they were the authors of their own downfall, but during that closing period, when the game was there to be won, Tipp ripped Wexford to shreds in devastating fashion, similar to Brian Cody's Kilkenny attack in their pomp.

The artistry of their stick-passing, particularly with the sniff of a goal on offer, was a sight to behold. John 'Bubbles' O'Dwyer's beautifully weighted pass for Noel McGrath's second goal, their fourth, was worth the entrance fee alone and it seems goals are the drug of choice for Michael Ryan's men.

"It's a big driver," Ryan said. "The guys themselves, it's probably the biggest driver of satisfaction, that they're putting up a decent score from play. And needless to say, the goals are like manna from heaven for these guys, they really love to engineer these goals."

When the going got tough, the luxury of introducing O'Dwyer and Michael Breen is something no team in the country could afford and while it may only be April, Ryan set Tipp's stall out on the night they won last year's All-Ireland title, and his tune hasn't changed. They want a league crown; they want more.

Galway stand in their way next Sunday and if their recent history is anything to go by, another belter is in store, the "perfect preparation" for a championship opener against Cork next month.

"We never fail to have a good game with Galway. We set it out really early in the year that we wanted to have a real go at this league and try and win it. That story hasn't changed," an enthused Ryan said.

It may also see the return of cult hero Patrick 'Bonner' Maher, as an already overflowing Premier cup hits new depths.

"Bonner joined us as soon as he got off the plane. He's in great shape. He needs to get some hurling time on our training field. He's champing at the bit, he'll stand out, he'll be tanned, and the girls will love him when they see him!"

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