Monday 18 December 2017

Young guns have exceeded my wildest expectations – Davy Fitz

Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald
Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Clare have arrived in an All-Ireland semi-final ahead of schedule, according to manager Davy Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald admits he is amazed with the progress of a team that has an average age of just over 23.

"I'm looking out at these lads and probably nine of them are under 22. They just amaze me. To be at this stage with this team ... my view was that it would take them another year or two to get there," said Fitzgerald.

Two years ago many of the same players suffered a heavy defeat to Galway in a Salthill qualifier, so to reverse those fortunes in such a short space of time represents quite a triumph for Fitzgerald.

"I'm delighted for that bunch of boys. They've exceeded my wildest expectations and we have a day out (All-Ireland semi-final against Limerick on August 18)," he added.

There has been a reconnection with Clare supporters too, which Fitzgerald detected on the way to the game yesterday morning.

"I was coming down the road this morning, driving down to meet the boys. I saw the Clare flags and the fellas togged out. It's the first time in a long time I felt, 'this is great'," he said.

"It was great seeing that on the way down and I'd like to thank them.

"We have a lot of genuine supporters, we have supporters that are on our back all the time, but 99pc of our supporters are great. The way they got behind us today ... as I keep saying, give the team a chance.

"We made things hard (for ourselves) but maybe that's better, that we can get the shots like that and deal with them."

What pleased him most was Clare's response to adversity when they conceded goals twice in the second half.

"We've talked about those situations and scenarios. It's important to respond," he said. "Even the day of the Cork game, the amount of chances we missed. We kept fighting. People didn't see it but we were actually fighting. We fought it out. We just didn't get the breaks."

Captain Pat Donnellan feels the team will embrace the inevitable hype there will be for a first ever Limerick/Clare All-Ireland semi-final.

"It's going to be brilliant," he said. "I was in Limerick – I live there myself – and for the Munster final, the build-up beforehand was great. You could hear the atmosphere from my house."

Donnellan also believes the sometimes criticised tactics deployed by Clare are perfect for the team. "The critics are only saying what they see," he said.

"But we believe that we're playing to our strengths. It's just about using the ball as well as we can. If it needs to go long or it needs to go short, we will do it. You just try to make the most of every ball and keep possession for as long as possible."

Galway manager Anthony Cunningham will see out the last year of his term despite the setback.

"I think we did brilliantly to get back into the game through two great goals," he said. "We probably lacked a small bit of composure when we got those, but Clare are set up very well, set up defensively and it took us a while to play a shorter game, which we did in the second half.

"From time to time form dips. We'd be very happy with the effort our guys put in."

Irish Independent

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