Wednesday 13 December 2017

High praise for Fanning

Boss praises ‘brilliant man’ who did late grandfather proud

Brendan Furlong

The Wexford squad conduct their after-match warm-down before an appreciative audience in Nowlan Park on Sunday
The Wexford squad conduct their after-match warm-down before an appreciative audience in Nowlan Park on Sunday

Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald has paid tribute to Mark Fanning and his family for the way the goalkeeper performed just days after his grandfather died.

Fanning played a huge role in Wexford ending the Kilkenny famine as they defeated their arch-rivals for the first time in league or championship in Nowlan Park since 1957, the golden era of Model county hurling.

This Allianz League quarter-final came just days after the family suffered a bereavement and Fitzgerald was quick to praise his player.

'People probably don't realise that Mark's grandad, whom he was very close to, passed away the other day,' he said.

'How he went out and played today, I don't know. I'm blown away by it and he didn't want any fuss made over it. To his family, I wish my deepest sympathy.

'What they allowed him to do today was unreal and the respect we have for him is incredible, fair play to him, because he is a brilliant man.'

Wexford secured promotion from Division 1B with a one hundred per cent record and are through to Division 1A hurling next season, while this was a first victory over Kilkenny in either of the two main competitions since 2004.

Wexford now join Division 1B colleagues, Limerick and Galway, in the semi-finals, where they play the sole Division 1A survivor, reigning All-Ireland champions, Tipperary, on Sunday week.

While Fitzgerald is delighted with the quick progress his team has made, he insisted that no one involved in the set-up is getting carried away. He's preached caution before the semi-final clash with Tipp on April 16.

'It was a good win,' he said. 'The game could have gone any way because it was nip and tuck for most of it. We're not going to get carried away because it's April 2. There are a lot more days ahead.

'Two weks time and we're playing Tipp. Jeez, you beat Kilkenny and you think you are doing alright, and then you have to go and play Tipp!

'They're the in-form team at the moment, on top of their game, but we'll go and see what happens. We'll give it a lash. For us getting promoted was massive so any little bit after that is great.

'We know we have an awful lot of work to do and the next two and three years will be interesting. There's a lot of space for improvement, but the honesty and commitment was out there today.'

Wexford are likely to face a Leinster semi-final against Kilkenny on June 10 in Innovate Wexford Park, if they can beat one of the teams to emerge from the round robin group featuring Westmeath, Kerry, Meath and Laois.

But for now we'll all sit back, take a deep breath, and suddenly realise we have at long last defeated the old enemy. Now we look forward to a semi-final meeting with the reigning All-Ireland champions on Sunday week in Kilkenny.

So summer days are here much earlier than expected for Model county supporters who bring so much colour to big hurling days on the G.A.A. calendar.

Wexford People

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