Tuesday 17 July 2018

'It's a tricky one for me so the less I say about Clare the better' - Fitzgerald gearing up for Davy derby

Wexford 2-21 Westmeath 0-16

7 July 2018; Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald during the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Preliminary Quarter-Final match between Westmeath and Wexford at TEG Cusack Park in Mullingar, Co. Westmeath. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
7 July 2018; Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald during the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Preliminary Quarter-Final match between Westmeath and Wexford at TEG Cusack Park in Mullingar, Co. Westmeath. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Daragh Small

On a day when Michael Ryan stepped down as Westmeath manager, Davy Fitzgerald began to plot a route through another huge tussle with his native county, and a mouth-watering All-Ireland quarter-final next weekend.

Wexford manager Fitzgerald won two All-Irelands as a player with Clare, and then masterminded their 2013 success over Cork. However, he remained coy about renewing rivalries after the match at Cusack Park in Mullingar on Saturday.

Tommy Doyle of Westmeath in action against David Dunne of Wexford. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Tommy Doyle of Westmeath in action against David Dunne of Wexford. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Wexford are into their third successive All-Ireland quarter-final after this win, but following defeats to Galway and Kilkenny in the Leinster round robin, there is still room for improvement if they want to knock the beaten Munster finalists out.

"I don't know, I'm not even thinking about next week yet. It's a tricky one for me so the less I say about Clare the better," said Fitzgerald (right).

"It's too close to my heart and I know them well, so the less I say the better. I'll be accused of playing this game or that game so I won't say anything. We'll go out next week and give it our best.

"Let's see what happens. If we don't play better than we did today we won't be doing anything."

Paudie Foley of Wexford in action against Joey Boyle of Westmeath. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Paudie Foley of Wexford in action against Joey Boyle of Westmeath. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Saturday was seen as a relatively straightforward draw and a game against the losers from the Joe McDonagh Cup final was an ideal return to championship hurling after Kilkenny beat Wexford 0-22 to 1-18 on June 9.

However, led by the free-taking exploits of Allan Devine, Westmeath stuck with their opponents for much of the first-half in the blistering heat and it needed David Dunne's 27th-minute goal to give Wexford the initiative.

Dunne came into the side late on for the rested Rory O'Connor, who scored seven points in the Wexford U-21s' agonising 4-21 to 2-26 defeat at the hands of Galway in the Leinster final last week.

Damien Reck was the only U-21 given game-time at the weekend, and he performed admirably in defence.

Eoin Price of Westmeath in action against Matthew O'Hanlon of Wexford. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Eoin Price of Westmeath in action against Matthew O'Hanlon of Wexford. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

But Westmeath threatened on occasion and Mark Fanning had to save well from Niall O'Brien when Westmeath only trailed 0-9 to 0-4 in the first-half.

Dunne's goal, though, put Wexford into a 1-12 to 0-8 half-time lead, and once Conor McDonald scored their second goal in the 46th minute Wexford had already switched their focus.

Harry Kehoe's performance off the bench was another positive, but Fitzgerald is aware his team need to improve if they want a first All-Ireland semi-final place since 2007.

"We did some great things out there, there were a few phases of play that were deadly, but it was tricky, we did what we had to do. There's lots of room for improvement, but next week is a new week and we'll see what happens," said Fitzgerald.

Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

"It was comfortable enough, I didn't think we were under pressure at any stage and thought we played well. We won by 11 points, the goalie had two unreal saves in the first-half and a victory's a victory.

"I'd like them to be better than they were tonight, they won't win a quarter-final playing like that. We are a lot better than that, but we have to bring that in the next five or six days."

For Westmeath, Ryan has parted ways four years into his reign. It was a tough week for hurling in the county, which began with their 2-26 to 1-24 defeat at the hands of Carlow.

Devine scored eight points as the hosts stayed in touch with Wexford throughout. They had seven different scorers on the day, in a performance to build on for the future, but Ryan won't be part of that.

"I have nothing but praise for the lads. They worked so hard in difficult conditions against a professional Wexford team," he said.

"My journey is at an end now, but we've had some fantastic days and maybe this team will go on from strength to strength because there's a really good base.

"Who knows what will happen next time, I've no idea but I don't believe in looking too far forward, whatever will be, will be.

"For the moment I'll just chill out, relax and be thankful to have worked with such a decent bunch of honest players."

Scorers - Wexford: L Chin 0-7 (6f, 0-1 65), D Dunne & C McDonald 1-1 each, A Nolan 0-4, H Kehoe 0-2, P Morris, J O'Connor, D O'Keeffe, S Murphy, L Ryan & S Tomkins 0-1 each

Westmeath: A Devine 0-8 (6f), A Clarke & E Price 0-2 each, D McNicholas, C Boyle, C Doyle & J Boyle 0-1 each

Wexford - M Fanning 8; D Reck 7, L Ryan 8, S Donohoe 7; P Foley 8, M O'Hanlon 8, D O'Keeffe 7; K Foley 8, S Murphy 8; L Chin 9, A Nolan 9, J O'Connor 8; P Morris 7, D Dunne 9, C McDonald 8 Subs: L Óg McGovern 8 for Morris (43), W Devereux 7 for O'Keeffe (54), H Kehoe 8 for O'Connor (63), S Tomkins 7 for Chin (63), É Martin 7 for Reck (69)

Westmeath - P Carroll 9; C Shaw 8, T Doyle 8, J Gilligan 7; S Clavin 7, P Greville 7, D McNicholas 7; E Price 8, A Clarke 8; R Greville 6, C Doyle 7, C Boyle 8; N O'Brien 7, N Mitchell 7, A Devine 9 Subs: J Boyle 8 for McNicholas (44), L Varley 7 for C Boyle (54), D Clinton 7 for Doyle 7 (58), A Craig 7 for Shaw (69)

Ref - D Kirwan (Cork)

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