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Friday 17 November 2017

Davy vows to bounce back

Championship Special: Fitzgerald rues sloppy spell in approach to half-time

Brendan Furlong

Davy Fitzgerald surveys his players as they prepare to meet President Michael D. Higgins before the game
Davy Fitzgerald surveys his players as they prepare to meet President Michael D. Higgins before the game
Davy Fitzgerald congratulated Galway manager Micheál Donoghue
The team manager and fellow mentor Seoirse Bulfin look on dejectedly during the closing stages

It's not over yet but Davy Fitzgerald brands Galway favourites, although he insists the title is 'anybody's' to win.

However, the Wexford manager conceded that his team were 'chasing shadows' during the second-half in their nine-point defeat to the westerners.

However, he was left to rue a six or seven-minute spell before the interval when Wexford carelessly surrendered the initiative. After 29 minutes, Wexford led by 0-11 to 0-10, and the pre-match favourites appeared unsettled.

However, Galway plundered a few straightforward points in advance of half-time and entered the dressing-room at the break with a three-point lead.

Still, the RTE 'Sunday Game Live' panel were slightly bemused that Galway held the half-time lead and praised Wexford's vigour and enterprise in the opening period.

It's a bemusement that Fitzgerald seems to share.

'Wexford should not have trailed by three points at the interval. I thought in the last six to seven minutes of the first-half we let it slip coming into half-time.'

Fitzgerald said that Wexford could have little complaint with the result. 'And then we actually had a good start in the first five minutes after half-time, had a goal opportunity, had a point opportunity,' he said.

'Had we got them, it might have made things closer. But on the day we can have no complaints.'

Fitzgerald admitted that Galway deserve to be favourites for the All-Ireland but still insisted the race for the Liam MacCarthy Cup is wide open.

'Yeah, they'll be favourites. They are in a semi-final, having also won the league, but they won't be happy with just winning Leinster, so they won't. I still think the race is anybody's, I don't think it's a foregone conclusion.

'I mean that for a number of teams - I think it's open. I really think it's open. Galway will have a say in it but I think it's a bit much to put them out there as big-time front runners.'

In a season where Wexford confounded all expectations, the charismatic box-office former Clare manager is just one reason why the match attracted a record crowd of just over 60,000.

As for whether the players can bounce back in an All-Ireland quarter-final, they have three weeks to re-group after this nine-point defeat, but he sounded a cautious note.

'It's a big ask to pick them up again. That's a nine-point defeat and we have to try and get their confidence up.

'I'm not downbeat - they kept fighting away to the end no matter what. They'll be okay. I don't know what will happen for the rest of the year. We'll go out and give it everything and fight like anything but I'll tell you them (sic) guys have stuff, without a shadow of doubt.

'If you weigh it up, most of that team have played in four Leinster finals at least. They have played in two All-Irelands. That's by far the biggest day we've played in. My guys aren't used to playing in anything remotely like that. We just need not to feel sorry for ourselves now and just pick ourselves up and go again.

'If you asked me at the start of the year if I could manage what we have managed in two years, never mind six months, I'd be delighted. That's a fact. I said from day one it's a journey. What we've achieved so far this year is miles ahead of what I thought we would achieve.'

Opening up about the defeat, Fitzgerald was gutted for the Wexford supporters that made up the record 60,032 crowd for a Leinster final.

'Look, I'm disappointed for the Wexford people, they came up in such hope. I have to say if you looked around with five minutes to go the stadium was still full. They didn't leave. I absolutely respect them so much for that.

'Obviously we're going to get a bit of negative stuff after this and we've got to take the good with the bad, that's the way it goes. But we're still learning.

'To get into a Leinster final, to be right there in the first-half, to have opportunities in the second-half, that's not so bad. They just found themselves in a tough position.

'Galway were rampant, scoring from every angle, and it isn't easy when that is happening. But we kept fighting and trying to create chances. I'd say we had way more goal opportunities than them.'

This was down to the effectiveness of Wexford sweeper Shaun Murphy. He provided an extra layer of defence around the full-back line and Galway did not get a sniff of goal all afternoon. But having scored 29 points, Galway manager Micheál Donoghue was delighted with the haul.

'I thought in the first-half we went away from what had got us to this stage and you have to give Wexford a lot of credit for that,' he said.

'At half-time the message was just to go back to ourselves and try to impose ourselves.

'I thought for the first ten minutes of the second-half they were very good. I won't say we stood off them in the first-half but we were more reactive than just going for it and trying to impose our own game.

'We did it for periods in the first-half but we were a lot better overall in the second-half. It's nice to put up a decent score. They are well capable of doing that.'

But with eight teams still in the championship, the Munster final to be played, and a host of big guns trying to battle their way through the qualifiers, Fitzgerald insists other teams could come into the reckoning, including Wexford.

Fitzgerald took his native Clare through the back door to win the All-Ireland in 2013 and feels a winner could come from anywhere.

'Galway will be favourites, they won't be happy with just a Leinster title. It's a bit much to put them out there as big-time front runners,' he added.

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