Sport Hurling

Saturday 18 November 2017

Rachel Wyse: Fitzgerald's 'small fry' comments are an insult to Clare players

Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald
Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald

Rachel Wyse

A man well versed on the subject of All-Ireland hurling finals maintains the event is but a seven- day wonder. His opinion isn't one of begrudgery or bitterness and with four All-Ireland medals in his possession he knows more than most.

His logic is simple. Once the papers on the Sunday following an All-Ireland final are dispensed with, the day and the game drift effortlessly from people's thoughts. When the aftermath comes it comes all too quickly. Never can it surpass the build-up. After massive anticipation and expectation in just seven days it's gone. You reflect and wonder did the event ever take place. Everyone moves on.

New stories and new heroes concentrate the mind. The years 1959 and 2012 proved exceptions and Domhnall O'Donovan's inspired stroke has ensured it will take considerably longer than seven days before this year's hurling final escapes our thinking. As a neutral spectator, the closing 15 minutes were gripping so I can only imagine the feelings endured by Clare and Cork natives.

Both teams could have won it, Clare were superior over the duration while somehow Cork were in front with seconds remaining so I suspect the players are glad to have an opportunity to right their wrongs. And on both sides there were many.

STANDARD

The standard of hurling, especially in the first half, left much to be desired. The tension and excitement of a brilliant ending papered over huge cracks.

As a spectacle the ending had no equal and it left us much to ponder prior to a replay on September 28. The GAA's decision to play the final on a Saturday at 5.0 is disappointing. I feel they have shown scant regard for the ordinary supporter.

Fixing an All-Ireland hurling final for a Saturday means that some people who would normally be there won't be in a position to travel to Dublin, whether due to work or family/other commitments.

Logistically Sunday is an easier day to plan for, not to mention the difficulties and expenses of commuting for a Saturday evening match in Dublin.

But it appears the GAA doesn't care for such issues, they know an All-Ireland final will probably be a sell-out regardless of what day or time the game is played.

Those who say we should just be happy to have another opportunity to savour a fascinating contest are missing the point. This is yet again an example of hierarchy blatantly showing little regard for those that prop up the organisation.

As is the decision to bring Antrim's U-21 hurling team to Thurles to play their All-Ireland final with Clare today. People speak of promoting the game, especially in 'weaker' counties.

I would like someone to explain how it benefits anyone or promotes the game in the slightest by asking a northern team, along with their supporters, to travel so far on a Saturday evening.

All-Ireland finals are rare occasions for the hurling people of Antrim, and instead of making it difficult, the GAA might be better served by attempting to facilitate and encourage their attendance on such big days.

You cannot but wonder is Antrim a fully paid-up member of Davy Fitzgerald's newly announced "small fry" club. Fitzgerald and his mentor of many years Ger Loughnane let themselves and their county down with some of their comments on Sunday evening.

The mentality Fitzgerald showed in speaking of "small fry" is insular and an insult to the Clare players who had performed so courageously for the 73 minutes at Croke Park.

Some have suggested Fitzgerald's comments were a deliberate ploy to deflect attention form his young team. Perhaps this is the case but such an outlook is unbecoming of the young men that proudly wore the Clare jersey.

Those men don't see themselves as "small fry" and they certainly don't perform in the manner becoming of such a description. Should Fitzgerald choose to persevere with a similar siege mentality it will only serve to restrict and hinder.

On 'The Sunday Game' Loughnane was in full flow when making an appraisal of referee Brian Gavin's performance.

For all his fluidity, his comments were inaccurate and too personal. No question Gavin made mistakes but over the course of play Clare benefited to the same extent as Cork from his errors.

In Clare and Cork the post- mortems lasted long into the week. Discussions will rumble on for another few weeks, the threat of winter postponed for a while yet.

For a seven-day wonder this great game is serving us well.

Irish Independent

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