O'Shea relishing a showdown with old enemy as Davy hails Premier's championship potential
DAVY Fitzgerald wasn't playing to caricature after his side went out of the league semi-finals with a whimper rather than a bang.
If he wanted to make any points to the referee Colm Lyons, then the Clare boss – wearing all black himself – may have done so during an extended handshake, but he was positively chilled when he spoke to the press.
"I think everyone out there knows the second goal for Tipp was a free for Clare 100pc, that was when the momentum went in their favour," he said, of the 42nd-minute free that yielded Bonner Maher's second goal.
But there endeth Davy's Easter Sunday sermon.
"If I'm totally honest I thought Tipperary were awesome, their use of the ball, their touch, their scores were unbelievable," he said. "I tell you, Tipp are going to be a serious team come the championship, that is what I learned outside here today."
Tipperary's Lazarus-like recovery in a topsy-turvy league was certainly the big post-match talking point in sun-drenched Limerick, with manager Eamon O'Shea admitting that he had not expected to be relishing another final against the old enemy.
"It seems strange, to be honest, after the slow start we made, but the most important thing is the spirit we're consistently showing in our games," he said.
"One of the things people didn't realise when we were losing games was that the team never capitulated. Our hurling wasn't good but in all the games we played, (but) we stayed at it, we kept it to three points, or seven points. Sometimes when your team is doing that, it's probably better than winning by nine or 10."
Word beforehand was that Tipp were flying in training and they certainly showed that, scoring all but 10 of their 2-24 from play, but O'Shea felt they still have a way to go.
"We're nowhere where we should be in terms of the quickness of our hurling, it's a little bit slow," he said, although he did acknowledge that the delivery to the forward line had improved.
"Again, not to a level that I'd be going mad about but it's certainly developed and they've worked very hard. It's just very early in the year to know what patterns are there and the way the game will go."
One thing O'Shea bristled at was the notion that his defence finally clicked after a lot of problems and variation during this league, much of it enforced due to injuries.
"I wouldn't say I did a lot of chopping and changing, I don't chop and change," O'Shea said. "I pick the players I have and any player that goes out to play for Tipperary is able to play hurling.
"We used players as I saw fit to play, these were quality players. Sometimes the ball ran away from them but I think every player who played in the league has really tried to develop, even on the training pitch. I was really proud of everyone who played during the league.
"Games were going against us, we weren't hurling well, but it wasn't because of effort," he insisted.
He made a quip that indicated that Tipp will certainly be insisting the final be held in Thurles after playing last year's league decider in Nowlan Park.
"It's good to get another match against Kilkenny. I didn't see the first match but we'll look forward to it. Games are the ones that matter, we train too much and play too little at this time of year. The more games the better," O'Shea added.
Clare's next move is to head to Portugal on Wednesday for a five-day training camp and Fitzgerald quipped: "We won't be throwing the legs up and enjoying the sun anyway!"
But he genuinely didn't seem too perturbed that they won't have a game again until they meet Cork or Waterford in the middle of June.
He said yesterday's sluggish performance confirmed his worries about the toll taken on his young team by winning the All-Ireland.
"Before the league started, I said it had been a massive six or seven months. I knew it was going to take its toll, people thought I was playing mind games earlier on in the year but I wasn't," Fitzgerald said.
"I felt after the Laois game that they were very stale," he said. "We haven't done much in the last three weeks. We've probably trained hard four times in that time. We're going away on Wednesday and I think they're in club championship a week-and-a-half after we come back. That won't be a bad thing either.
"We battled away, we scored 2-17 and had 14 wides, there are definitely areas to work on. We won't be in the top three or four in the championship with a performance like that.
"You have to be 100pc if you are going to win games like that. Tipperary definitely had a bit more hunger. They had that bite and drive today, you could see that.
"I'm happy. I'd visions that we'd be fighting relegation and that's being straight with you," he said.
"We wanted to find the gears today but we couldn't. We'll make sure now we do that bit extra to get ready for Cork or Waterford. I think there'll only be a puck of a ball in it in Munster, with Tipperary that slight bit ahead. The rest of us, it's going to be tight."
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