‘That’s what hurling is all about’ as Clare and Waterford tussle in epic encounter
‘That’s what hurling is all about’ insists Fitzgerald as Banner are denied at death
Waterford selector Dan Shanahan hailed the character of his younger brother Maurice, who showed nerves of steel to send over a last-gasp, long-range free to level the Allianz NHL final after more than 90 minutes of absorbing action.
At times it was ugly, but it was always interesting with little quarter given by Clare or Waterford and it went right to the wire with Shanahan’s late point the final action, leaving the sides tied on 22 points.
It often resembled championship intensity, no more so than at the dramatic conclusion when Shanahan stood over the game-saving free. The elder Shanahan was quick to praise the mental strength shown by Maurice in the face of immense pressure.
He also alluded to some unnecessary “heckling” which he claims came from the direction of the Clare bench, but it didn’t put Shanahan off as he gave Waterford another bite of the cherry next Sunday.
“He got a lot of heckling now, to be honest with you. A small bit. I’m talking from the Clare bench now, lads. From the crowd and stuff like that. That’s just the way it is, I suppose. That’s sport,” Shanahan said in the immediate aftermath.
“Again, I think Maurice deserves respect; it took a lot of liathróidí to put the ball over the bar.” When asked to clarify whether or not the comments came from the Clare bench, he added: “I’ll leave it up to ye to imagine that. I think a draw was a fair result.”
Clare boss Davy Fitzgerald, visibly on a high after the game, believed the contest embodied everything that’s good about hurling and highlighted the contribution of Conor McGrath, whose difficult free secured extra-time for the Banner.
“That’s what hurling is all about. It was a man’s game out there, toe to toe, and that’s what it was today. We’re delighted. Fair play to Waterford, they were the same thing, we had to stand up at the end of normal time,” Fitzgerald said.
“Conor McGrath put over a free that was absolutely incredible and I’m so proud of him and what he did. Everything was on the line for us and he did it. And fair play to Maurice Shanahan at the end, he did it when he had to do it.
“That shows you what hurlers are about and even from a hurling man, I just feel it was a savage game of men to men, toe to toe. That’s the way I see it, maybe ye see it different, but that’s how I saw it.”
Tempers threatened to boil over with both management teams involved in a tangle on the half-hour mark but Shanahan was quick to downplay the significance of it, saying it was only “handbags”.
“Ah, look, that’s handbags stuff. Only handbags stuff,” he said. “These things happen. You’ve two benches that you have, they’re going to back up with you. Davy’s going to back up Clare and we’re obviously going to back up our young fellas and roll on the next day.”
"They thought it was going to be shadow-boxing but it opened up in the second half and maybe extra-time. It was a tight finish and we were happy to get the draw, I suppose."
Of the brief melee Fitzgerald responded: "Ah, isn't that great boy! That's what you want. Ye'd have nothing to write about if we didn't have that. You didn't say anything about me shaking hands with him afterwards," he joked.
"It was all good. I'd be no good to ye if I wasn't like that. These things happen, but do you know, we love our counties, we're there and we're trying our best and that's all we can do. We're passionate.
"People said you'd come out and try not win the National League. Do any of ye think that now? Ye see we both wanted to win it and it'll be the same next week. I just think it's fantastic for hurling. Today was great. And more to come over the next five weeks."
The prospect of another meeting with his old side before their Munster SHC clash on June 5 is not something which bothers Fitzgerald one bit either.
"No, f***ing delighted," Fitzgerald said. "Play again and if they want to play it again the following week that's fine with us too, it's all good. We're delighted to play Waterford another two times. I just can't wait to go again, I'm really looking forward to it."
He likened the packed middle third of Semple Stadium to a "war zone" believing that was the reason for a combined 39 wides. He also stated that the bookmakers may have to call it dead-even split between the two sides ahead of next Sunday's replay.
"There isn't as much space as normal. That 45 to 45 was a war zone, that's what it was there today and that's why there would have been wides," he said.
"I think Waterford had more wides than us in the first half, but the reason it was that way is because we were trying to make them shoot from as far out was possibly could.
"The bookies might have it at evens the next day. I think there's nothing between the two teams. What was the score in the first half? 7-6? That tells its own story."