Sport Hurling

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Fitzgerald proud of players' character in adversity

vincent hogan

Dan Shanahan strides down the dressing-room tunnel, cup in hand, trailing photographers like pilot fish.

Tony Browne senior goes past, his son's hurley and helmet in hand, sacraments borne to an altar. In a doorway, Noel Connors pauses to suck in the bubbling night air. Waterford's story is a giddy collusion of old gentry and new kids here.

Two years ago, Connors was hurling Harty Cup. Now he mixes with the Gods of the game. "I was two when Tony Browne made his debut for Waterford," he chuckles.

"I call him my father now. He always looks after me, thank God. And I try to look after him a small bit too."

The achievement is finding clarity now. "There's a lot of bounce in this team," grins Connors. "When things go bad, we always keep the head up." Nearby, Shane O'Sullivan applies flesh to the bone.

"We're where we want to be," says O'Sullivan. "We've been knocked a lot of times in the past and come through difficulties. To come back after a hammering in an All-Ireland final (2008) and to win this is great."

Michael 'Brick' Walsh finds himself penned in at the Cork end of the tunnel. "Look, any day you win a Munster final it's a great thing," he grins. "But I suppose there'd be no one too afraid of the hurling that was seen out there. We got through, we battled hard and that's the basis for any success.

"Maybe it's a measure of how far we've come. We've four Munster finals at this stage and fellas are over the moon. I suppose it would be playing in the back of your mind that, if you lost, you were going to be playing next week. So that's an added bonus."

Davy Fitz beams like a proud father. "The character of the players shone out there tonight," he says. "I'm just very proud of them. We took a knock and a half two years ago. We were written off and I was more or less told to stay away, that there was no point being with these lads. This is nice."

Cork manager Denis Walsh picks through the debris of a shuddering setback with quiet dignity.

"At half-time, 0-8 to 0-4 down, it was a big mountain to climb," he sighs. "But I thought we were magnificent for maybe the first 20 minutes of the second half.

"We had three goal chances in the first half too and, if we had got one of them, it might have put a different complexion on things. It was so tight, a goal was going to be worth a fortune really."

Irish Independent

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