Sunday 22 April 2018

John Mullane: Karma's a b***h, isn't it? Crazy stuff from Davy Fitz as Premier show class

Fitzgerald wrong to enter the pitch over poor refereeing decision but Tipp were just too hot

Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald tussles with Jason Forde of Tipperary during the Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Semi-Final match between Wexford and Tipperary at Nowlan Park in Kilkenny. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald tussles with Jason Forde of Tipperary during the Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Semi-Final match between Wexford and Tipperary at Nowlan Park in Kilkenny. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

John Mullane

NEWSFLASH. Davy Fitzgerald isn’t going to change any time soon.

What you see is what you get with him. How he behaves in the white heat of battle is ingrained in his DNA.

He’s the Jose Mourinho of hurling. He displays many of the same characteristics. He can be calm when he wants to be but you know that at any time, he can boil over. He did what he felt was right for his team yesterday and while racing onto the pitch to argue with the referee and other players didn’t look good at all, that’s who he is.

He knows the rules and he’s prepared to push the boundaries. There’s surely a touchline ban coming but he won’t mind that. What Fitzgerald did yesterday will feed into the siege mentality that he’s trying to create in Wexford. ‘It’s us against the world’ and, in his mind, what he did was show his players how much he’s with them.

He overstepped the mark, of course he did, but it’s not the first time he’s done it, and it won’t be the last.

Back in 2012, I celebrated in front of Fitzgerald when we beat his Clare team in the Munster championship. I was led to believe that he had said I was ‘finished’ before the game and naturally enough, I was keen to prove a point. Our relationship has never been the same since but I still respect the man – and that won’t change.

Fitzgerald congratulates Tipperary boss Michael Ryan after tempers calm down in Nowlan Park. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Fitzgerald congratulates Tipperary boss Michael Ryan after tempers calm down in Nowlan Park. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Karma’s a bitch, too, isn’t it?  Remember last year’s league final replay when Diarmuid Kirwan decided not to give Waterford’s Jamie Barron a free, before handing Clare the chance to level?

Davy was in charge of Clare then and benefited from a Kirwan decision. Yesterday, he was on the receiving end of one, as the referee decided that James Breen wasn’t fouled before Tipperary scored their second goal.

It’s a learning curve for Wexford and they now know the level they have to get up to. Tipp are the benchmark.

So, what about the Kirwan call and Davy’s pitch entrance?

You might recall my column after the league decider last year, when I suggested that it was time for Kirwan to hang up his whistle.

That came out of sheer anger because the ‘lost’ free denied Waterford a national title.

However, Davy knows better than most that you live by the sword, and you die by it.

Look, he shouldn’t have reacted like that, but Kirwan had a role to play in it .

It seems that this guy is a topic of conversation after so many big games and here we are again.

Tipperary's John McGrath. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Tipperary's John McGrath. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

It appeared to be a free out to Wexford, but Davy, when he looks back on it, will know that entering the field wasn’t the right thing to do, and Croke Park’s top brass won’t turn a blind eye to this one.

Whatever about running on to the pitch, getting involved with Jason Forde was crazy stuff.

You just can’t do that and there are so many managers out there who could take a leaf out of Tipp manager Michael Ryan’s book.

He’s quietly gone about his business since last year’s All-Ireland win. This fella is the real deal, but he’ll wonder how his team was awarded only three frees in the game – an indication that Kirwan was as bad for Tipp as he was for Wexford.

Wexford boss Davy Fitzgerald clashes with Tipperary’s Jason Forde during the game. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Wexford boss Davy Fitzgerald clashes with Tipperary’s Jason Forde during the game. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

But I have to stress this, I don’t want people thinking that I have it in for Kirwan, or that this is some kind of agenda against the man.

Far from it, but he’s the centre of attention during and after matches far too often. That decision not to award Breen a free left Fitzgerald so irate that he felt the need to run out on to the pitch.

Again, that’s not excusing what Fitzgerald did, but Kirwan’s non-call led to Tipp scoring a crucial goal at a crucial stage.

I don’t want to detract from Tipp’s performance in any way, but there was a big moment in the 58th minute when Conor McDonald missed a free that would have brought Wexford to within a point.

Just 30 seconds later, John McGrath puts the ball in the back of their net and it was a game-changer. Still, when the heat came on, the Maher brothers, Ronan and Pádraic, stood tall for Tipp.

They did their damage in that six-minute spell and what impressed me no end was the fact that while Liam Ryan did a fantastic job on Seamus Callanan, Tipp still had a fine spread of scores from elsewhere. That’s what makes them so dangerous.

Michael Breen had a massive impact off the bench and John McGrath, speaking after the game, said he knew he was getting an offload from Dan McCormack for his second goal. He just knew it.

For Tipp, it doesn’t matter who the scorer is, the best-placed player gets the ball.

Wexford will still take a lot from the game, but the first two Tipp goals will leave Davy disappointed. It was a mistake from Breen for the first and a free that should have been given for the second. Two that could have been avoided.

And so, as predicted, it’s Tipp and Galway next Sunday in the final.

It’s set up for a humdinger and Galway’s match-ups will prove vital.

I’d anticipate Dáithí Burke moving back to pick up Callanan, with Adrian Tuohy on John McGrath. Then you have to worry about the likes of ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer, Noel McGrath and Jason Forde. These lads will provide plenty of questions for Micháel Donoghue – and now he has to answer them.

Irish Independent

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