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Sunday 22 October 2017

Clare out of jail

Fitzgerald involved in tunnel altercation

Davy Fitzgerald was involved in a tunnel bust-up with a local journalist following Clare's pulsating draw with Wexford in the All-Ireland hurling qualifiers in Cusack Park on Saturday.

All-Ireland hurling champions Clare looked set to relinquish their title until a thrilling finish at Cusack Park that saw the Banner draw level and force 
extra-time, which failed to separate the sides.

Following the gripping encounter in Ennis, Fitzgerald was involved in a heated exchange with a member of the press.

It is understood that Fitzgerald was unhappy with media coverage of his team from the paper, and the journalist in question.

The game's momentum swung back and forth but ended with Clare's Conor McGrath and Wexford's Paul Morris swapping scores to ensure the sides will have to do it all again in Wexford Park, with the game likely to be fixed for next Saturday.

Clare never led until the first period of extra time but Liam Dunne's Wexford were superb and deserved at least another shot at the champions.

It was a fitting end to an exciting 90 minutes hurling that might have seen either side progress.

Wexford dominated much of the normal time though those final minutes saw high drama and a penalty awarded to each side. Paul Morris played it safe and pointed for Wexford to give his side a four-point lead.

SAVED

Within seconds, Conor McGrath won a penalty off Keith Rossiter. Tony Kelly's initial effort was saved, by Seadna Morey, who had only just come on, somehow swept the rebound to the net beneath a mass of bodies.

Clare's tails were up now and with the clock ticking into injury time, Conor Ryan stormed forward to draw the sides level. Cathal McAllister offered just one minute extra where Darach Honan or Garrett Sinnott might have won it for their sides.

However, the sides went to the additional periods but even that couldn't separate the sides with Wexford Park expected to host a bumper crowd next weekend.

"With two minutes to go and you are down four points it doesn't look great," Fitzgerald reflected afterwards.

"But with this crowd we have been in tight situations before and we have pulled out of it. Whatever you say about them, they have unbelievable heart, that's what I love about the boys. But it is worrying that we haven't that same cutting edge that we had last year, certain tackles we are not making that we should make."

The Clare manager went on to refer to some "messing" in the county and while he wouldn't be drawn any further, it seems the row over club fixtures was at the heart of it.

"When we were 10 points down I would have taken what we have now; when we were four points down with two minutes to go I would have taken what we have now. The character they showed is incredible. Were we at our best, were we back fighting the way we should be? No.

"Probably last year is certainly a reason for it, the messing that is going on in Clare is a reason for it. There are different things that are happening and what we need to do is unite, get together and work like never before."

Wexford manager Liam Dunne was pleased his side will get another chance to test their progress.

"When you come down to play the All-Ireland champions in Ennis and you have a five-point lead at half-time and they take the lead in extra-time and you come back, you can look at it both ways.

"I think it's fantastic for the players. We wanted to win the game and we believed we would win it."

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