Fitz's latest on-field antics eclipse late Tipp goal rush
Wexford 1-19 Tipperay 5-18
Wexford fight, tooth and nail, for an hour. Tipperary eventually burst open the dam and finish with five goals. The McGrath brothers share four of them. There's a massive crowd in Nowlan Park to see it all ...
And yet today's headlines are all about Davy Fitzgerald. Now there's a first.
Davy Fitz's touchline antics have long been a source of amusement to some, finger-tutting disapproval to others ... but for yesterday's Allianz Hurling League semi-final, he took matters further. Forty metres further.
Noel McGrath had just fired home Tipperary's second goal in the 18th minute, making it a 2-2 to 0-2 game, but Wexford were furious that an apparent foul on James Breen in the build-up, forcing a key turnover, had been missed.
Enter Davy Fitz. Literally.
Initially, Niall O'Meara told him where to go; the Wexford boss responded with a 'dunt'.
Then Jason Forde joined the fray, squaring up to Fitzgerald, before Wexford's Aidan Nolan responded in kind to Forde.
It was all very unedifying/daft/entertaining - take your pick. Peace was restored and Fitzgerald ushered away. And afterwards, he admitted his intervention wasn't entirely based on anger at the referee.
"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," the Clareman explained. "I was hoping they might respond a small bit more. They responded after that, which was no harm, with a bit of fight."
He then stressed: "I could not blame Diarmuid Kirwan. I thought he was very good, very fair. He's one of the top referees. I will not criticise him. In a game you're going to get one or two things either way. But just unfortunately, that one hurt us at the time. But we're not going to be complaining in Wexford. 100 per cent not."
While Fitzgerald's intervention throws open the obvious possibility of a touchline ban, his opposite number expressed some sympathy.
"To be fair, from what I saw I can understand the frustration," said Michael Ryan. "There was certainly a high hand or a high looking tackle and we turned over the ball, whether there was a foul in the middle of it, I'd need to see it again."
But the Tipp manager then cited his own "frustrations" over a 16-3 free count in Wexford's favour, his team getting just one in the second half.
"And I think none inside the '65'. So clearly Wexford are a super clean team and we've a lot of work to do on our discipline," he noted sardonically.
Ryan accepted that Wexford frequently had Tipp on the back foot, adding: "We were under pressure so it does explain some of the frees. But not all of them."
In the midst of all this, we had a hurling match. And a tasty enough one too. Tipperary led by 2-6 to 0-8 at the midpoint, primarily thanks to goals by John McGrath (six minutes) and, more controversially, his older brother.
Wexford enjoyed wind advantage on the restart and, despite the buzzing impact of Michael Breen off the Tipp bench, lots of momentum.
When Lee Chin struck a superb touchline point on 57 minutes, they had hit three on the spin, the deficit was just two and their supporters bellowed "Wexford, Wexford!"
Tipp's deadly response was to score an unanswered 2-4 in a six-minute shell-burst that included clinically executed second goals from John McGrath (59 minutes) and Noel (63), the latter superbly picked out by John O'Dwyer.
There was still time for Brendan Maher to add a fifth Tipp goal and Wexford full-back Liam Ryan to fire home an injury-time consolation, soon after his 'keeeper Mark Fanning's penalty was repelled by Darren Gleeson.