independent

Wednesday 22 November 2017

'We've come a long way'

Defiant Davy vows to learn lessons from late collapse

Brendan Furlong

Davy Fitzgerald congratulates his Tipperary counterpart Michael Ryan after Sunday's semi-final in Nowlan Park, Kilkenny
Davy Fitzgerald congratulates his Tipperary counterpart Michael Ryan after Sunday's semi-final in Nowlan Park, Kilkenny

Davy Fitzgerald may have seen his side's dreams shattered with an eventual eleven-point defeat to reigning All-Ireland champions Tipperary in the Allianz League semi-final at Nowlan Park, Kilkenny, on Sunday but he defiantly declared: 'we have big days ahead'.

It ended a terrific campaign for Wexford, who gained promotion from Division 1B and turned the hurling world upside down with victories over Limerick, Galway and Kilkenny from the premier elite, a sequence of wins that showed Fitzgerald is pointing his side in the right direction.

Wexford trailed by just two points with twelve minutes remaining when Conor McDonald saw a long-range free float just wide to reduce the deficit to the minimum, but from the next attack John McGrath found space inside the defence to beat 'keeper Mark Fanning with a terrific finish.

That signalled the end for the Model county who to their credit kept battling to the final whistle.

'Obviously we've done pretty okay. Anyone playing Tipperary knows they'll be in a game,' Fitzgerald commented afterwards.

'I think we've come a long way but I've said repeatedly, I think we've still a lot more to do. There is stuff there, there are good lads there. Over the next year or so we'll make it. I kept saying to them in Wexford, "just give us time".

'The support was brilliant today. I would like to thank the Wexford supporters. They were magnificent, right behind the side, as they have all league.

'They didn't get on our backs. We will have good days. There's a lot of big days maybe ahead this year. A week or two off will do them no harm. They will now go back to their clubs but we will be keeping in touch with them.'

Fitzgerald was typically animated on the sideline and even charged onto the pitch in the first-half when James Breen was not awarded a free, and Tipperary subsequently scored their second goal as a result. He clashed with Jason Forde as he left the pitch but did not regret his intervention.

'It was important to make the point,' he said. 'You have to do what you think is right for the team. It's probably something I won't try again.

'I think it will take a year or two to get where we want to be, but you saw out there today, there was plenty of fight in them, there was some lovely hurling in it.

'We just need to tighten it a small bit at the back. We won't give in. We'll stay working hard with this bunch and we'll have good days with them.'

Despite the shock of conceding those two first-half goals, Wexford responded, showing all the quality and fighting spirit which had marked their league campaign.

Wexford seemed to have weathered the early Tipperary storm.

'I'm very proud of the lads. We fought them but when we lost our shape in the closing twelve minutes they hurt us. We had been preaching this all week, not to lost their shape, their gameplan, as a side like Tipperary would punish us.

'That's just what happened. We fought them for 60 minutes. Tipperary came up to blow us out of the water but they did not achieve that. The lads responded, and it was only when we lost our shape, just two points down and seeking those crucial scores, that left the space. Leave that type of space inside and Tipp will punish you.'

Reflecting back to the incident that saw James Breen clearly fouled twice prior to their second goal, Fitzgerald said: 'The reaction was warranted. A decision like that can turn a whole game. When Tipp start to get a blitz on you, you just have to, just try to make sure I could lift my lads a small bit. They responded after that, which was no harm, with a bit of fight. As it worked out it didn't do any harm.'

Now Wexford could face a reprimand for Davy's intervention.

'I don't think they'll do that to me. It would be no fun if I was up there (in the stands). You'd have nothing to write about if I'm up there.

'I know you'll do me all the favours under the sun tomorrow saying that shouldn't happen. Whatever it is, it is. I'd like to think common sense (will prevail). I won't do it again if that's any consolation.'

On Tipperary's late scoring blitz, Fitzgerald added: 'That was us, that wasn't Tipp. That was us switching off, that was us going from exactly the stuff we worked on. When we came back under a small bit of pressure at the very end and they got that first goal, we switched off and went back to the old habits.

'We'll knock that out of them. That won't happen again I can tell you. I learned more in those eight minutes, the amount of stuff I'll be able to show them because you can't leave Tipp loose.

'When our fella in the hole left the hole that's when the trouble came. You can't leave the hole.'

See match report

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