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Tuesday 17 September 2019

Davy hails his players

Leinster final with Kilkenny for the first time since 2008

The mutual respect between rival managers Brian Cody and Davy Fitzgerald is reflected in this post-match photograph
The mutual respect between rival managers Brian Cody and Davy Fitzgerald is reflected in this post-match photograph

Brendan Furlong, Sports reporter

Wexford boss Davy Fitzgerald spoke movingly on what this special bunch of Wexford players meant to him in the wake of Saturday's thrilling draw with Kilkenny which has ensured a repeat meeting in the Leinster final on June 30.

On what was a moving night for hurling in the province, with the sensational result in Parnell Park unfolding at the same time, Fitzgerald hailed as 'massive' the achievement of his players.

Into his third year in charge, Fitzgerald has steered his charges to a second provincial final, so one could understand why the flamboyant manager was so emotional following the game.

'Look, with five minutes to go we knew what the story was. I went out to Dee (O'Keeffe) to tell him what the story was. I told him we needed to get that score more than anything and try and push on and win if we could,' he explained.

'That was my sole intention of going on the pitch to inform Dee, the only way he could hear in that cauldron. Trust me, that was why, you can quote me on that.

'At one stage late on, the four teams were in and out of the championship at different stages, so that's how crucial and tense it was.

'You know I wear my heart on my sleeve all the time, which can be a problem sometimes, but I would be very sentimental towards these guys. The respect they have shown me has been incredible.

'They would do anything I would ask of them. There's a massive respect between us all. To tell you the truth, for Wexford to do what we've done is massive.

'We know when we are playing Kilkenny what you're going to get, massive tackles, one hundred per cent effort, and this is what I've told my team. I think the evidence out there was great.

'We played a few minutes with 14 players and we survived.

'I would say a lot of people were saying when we were only three points up at half-time, having played with the wind, it was not enough.

'That's an honest take. We actually said at half-time we were a better team playing into the wind, so we knew once we dug in we would be there with a shout.

'We knew we had to stay in the game during that opening 20 minutes of the second-half. That was our plan going out for the second-half, hang in there no matter what.

'We were were doing pretty well until we gave away that goal. I had given out the instruction to go long, and the next thing I saw was the ball in the back of the net.

'The big thing for me to emerge from that game is we had two teams who put their bodies on the line. Now we have an opportunity to do it all over again in the provincial final. That's something to look forward to.'

Despite being reduced to 14 players for the crucial final minutes, with Matthew O'Hanlon having been dismissed following a late tackle on Enda Morrissey, the Wexford manager said their alternative plan immediately fell into place.

'We have trained for those situations. We have played in-house games, 15 on 14, to prepare for such a scenario arising.

'Once Matthew, who, by the way, was having an outstanding game - not many defenders can hold T.J. Reid scoreless from play - was sent-off, our alternative plan fell into place.

'Immediately on this happening, the players knew what to do, they put the alternative plan into action, so it did not interrupt our gameplan in any way. That's important to our plan but it worked a treat for the players,' Fitzgerald added.

Looking ahead to the Leinster final, Fitzgerald said: 'I will start preparing for that in the morning. I will have a good night's sleep first.

'Then again, Croke Park is a second home for those Kilkenny lads. They (Kilkenny) will be the warmest of favourites going into that game, but certainly it's something to look forward to.'

There was confusion on the final whistle as Kilkenny manager Brian Cody pointed to the clock.

'I was pointing to the clock because there was half a minute left, but seemingly somebody told that that the clock stopped for a mnute in the 35th minute so, in fairness, if that's the truth, that's the truth.

Cody confessed that he hedged his bets on his pre-match changes in personnel.

'I admit we took a gamble, but lads had moved well in training during the week. They brought massive experience to the team which was crucial in a game such as this. This was a big game which was a big factor in the decision.'

Cody bemoaned their second-half finishing. 'Our shooting from long range in the second-half was not top quality.

'We shot a lot of wides, but still the lads showed patience and played very well. Right now I don't mind who we will play in the Leinster final.'

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