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Tuesday 15 October 2019

Devastated Davy admits: 'I really believed we'd be in an All-Ireland'

DEJECTED: Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald (left) is consoled by Rory O’Connor. Photo: Sportsfile
DEJECTED: Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald (left) is consoled by Rory O’Connor. Photo: Sportsfile

A tale of winners and losers in the Hogan Stand dungeon.

Facing that familiar audience of dictaphones in the Croke Park media room, Davy Fitzgerald can scarcely conceal his raw emotions as he reflects on what might have been, maybe what should have been, and leaves dangling the question: will he be back with Wexford next season?

The Clareman doesn't shy away from the inevitable suggestion that here was a glorious opportunity missed for Wexford, five up against 14 men.

"Yeah, it's an opportunity," he accepts. "We could have been there but we're not and there's nothing I can say.

"I can tell you how I'm feeling and how the lads are feeling - you don't want it. You don't want this feeling because we know we possibly could have been there.

RESOLVE: Tipperary manager Liam Sheedy. Photo: Sportsfile
RESOLVE: Tipperary manager Liam Sheedy. Photo: Sportsfile

"And it hurts so badly because Wexford haven't been there in 23 years and, more than anything, I wanted this team to get there. I absolutely adore that bunch. If I asked that bunch to do anything for me, they would."

But will he be doing the long drive again, criss-crossing the country from west to east?

"I'll tell you how devastated I feel now, it's unreal," Fitzgerald says. "I really believed coming today that we'd be in an All-Ireland final. I don't fear any of the teams in Ireland at this stage.

No breather

"Whether I can do it again, I don't know. I don't want to think about it for a while. I think I just need to stop. It's been 18 years playing and 13 other ... no breather."

Onto more forensic matters: had Tipperary forced Mark Fanning to go long with his puckouts in the game's decisive period?

"No, the short was on," the former 'keeper counters. "We definitely could have used it and we probably should have used it. Looking back on it, they left us a lot of space. We should have got more short."

Had Wexford physically flagged in those dying minutes?

"We looked a small bit leggy, yeah," he concedes. "I think it's more that the momentum shifted. When momentum happens like that, it's very feckin' hard to stop it. Tipp just got it at the right time. And fair play to them."

Whether he stays or goes, Fitzgerald is adamant that there is more to come from his Leinster champions; that they will "keep fighting" and won't give in.

"It's funny, I've been over teams a long time. The bond I have with this crew ... I don't think I've had it with any team," he suggests.

"Going to training is actually really good, I swear to God. You do two hours 45 minutes from Clare and it isn't an easy thing, 120 times a year. They're an unbelievable bunch. I really, really enjoy them and, no matter what happens in Wexford, I think I'll be friends with these guys for a long time to come."

Downfall

Liam Sheedy, meanwhile, is going nowhere except back to the Premier bunker, there to plot (he hopes) the downfall of Kilkenny.

So what about the Cats?

"Stop. Ask me tomorrow, or Tuesday," he counters.

At times yesterday, the Tipperary boss must have wondered how many more hammer-blows his team would have to withstand.

Down to 14 men after John McGrath walked. Then five points down. Then a third disallowed goal - Jake Morris in the first of six stoppage-time minutes, whistled back for a free-in with no advantage allowed.

"I just said to Shane (Hynes, the match official) on the sideline, 'ls there not five seconds? Do you not get five seconds here to do something?' I felt Jake had got the ball within two or three," Sheedy surmises.

"I felt that was probably the match-winning score. Paudie (Maher) coming out once or twice ... I thought that when we were coming out with momentum the free was given (against Tipp) but when they were coming in with momentum, the free was being given in.

"So, look, Sean Cleere is a fine referee. It's a difficult, difficult situation to find yourself in out there because the game is just frantic.

"Again, it probably tells you a bit more about our group and our team - that they managed to answer back and found the resolve to go at it again."

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