independent

Sunday 21 October 2018

Hurlers in last four

Kilkenny next on the list after Wexford dethrone holders

Davy Fitzgerald with rival Galway manager Micheál Donoghue after Saturday’s league quarter-final in Innovate Wexford Park
Davy Fitzgerald with rival Galway manager Micheál Donoghue after Saturday’s league quarter-final in Innovate Wexford Park

Brendan Furlong

Davy Fitzgerald hailed the brilliance of his young midfield pairing of Rory O'Connor and Kevin Foley who helped fire Wexford to a dramatic victory over Galway in Saturday's thrilling Allianz Hurling League Division 1A quarter-final at Innovate Wexford Park.

Now Fitzgerald is looking forward to their semi-final clash with arch-rivals Kilkenny at the county grounds this Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m., a game that is sure to attract a huge crowd.

But he first must concern himself with injury worries to two of his key players, defender Damien Reck and attacker Conor McDonald, both of whom came out of the Galway game carrying knocks.

Reck was forced to retire early in the first-half with a hamstring problem, while McDonald, who finished the game, had x-rays on a hand injury immediately afterwards, making him a huge concern ahead of the Kilkenny clash.

Fitzgerald believes this will be another huge battle. 'Look, any game between these two teams always produces a huge battle. This will be no exception but we are looking forward to it. On home soil, in front of passionate supporters, who could ask for more?'

Looking back on the quarter-final victory over Galway, Fitzgerald - while elated with the victory - still believes there's lots of room for improvement, particularly the cutting down on mistakes.

Rory O'Connor, who assumed the role of free-taker after Lee Chin had fired two successive easy placed balls wide, stood up to the responsibility, while also producing a tremendous all-round display, with his run and shot eventually leading to the game's only goal.

And Rapparees clubman, Kevin Foley, continued his sparkling league form with yet another cameo that caught the eye.

'Both players stood up for us, even when Joe Canning was switched into a midfield role. Both are just phenomenal players and add so much to the team from last year.'

With the same teams due to meet on June 2 in the round robin of the Leinster championship, also in Innovate Wexford Park, it was Wexford who drew first blood - a fact that was not lost on the manager.

'We are the first team to knock them out of a competition since August, 2016, so we set that thing in our heads. Did we know we had to play them in the championship in a few months' time?

'We did, but today was about today and winning. I won't use the exact same formation in the championship.'

Jack Coyne's red card midway through the second-half helped Wexford's cause, he conceded.

'Sometimes when you get a player sent-off, and you saw it with Galway, they actually lift themselves. And they came really strong. They are going to be right up there, I can promise you, when it comes to it.

'I am delighted with the win. We won it when it was in the melting pot but I think we shouldn't have put ourselves in that position. I think Galway will be a different proposition in two months' time, they will be a lot different, but I would hope that we will be a lot different as well.'

When put to Fitzgerald this was a game Wexford would have lost a couple of years ago, he responded: 'Not this side. They will battle, continue to battle to the bitter end, they will just not accept anything else. This is a wonderful bunch of players.

'I know we have more. Can we improve on that? I know we can but we will have to curtail the error count. They got some scores off our mistakes coming out of defence. That's something we need to address, but I know the players are determined to improve, to take their game even to another level.'

Fitzgerald is now looking forward to the semi-final clash with Kilkenny. Despite losing to them in the last round of the league, he's happy to face them again before another summer meeting.

'I don't care. I just want to be in the competition. I value the competition. It's a national competition. There will be an unbelievable atmosphere in Wexford Park. You've seen the atmosphere today - why wouldn't you want it?'

Galway manager Michael Donohoe claimed it was a game they could have won.

'Our shooting was erratic at times, but the sending-off had a real bearing, although we did create sufficient chances in the closing stages. We will now have to re-group for the championship and look forward to another visit to Wexford.'

Wexford People

Most Read

News