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Thursday 14 December 2017

Tipperary look to be too big a step up for Davy's Wexford

Allianz HL semi-final: Tipperary v Wexford (Nowlan Park, 2.0, Live TG4)

Wexford’s Conor McDonald is back to his best. Photo: Sportsfile
Wexford’s Conor McDonald is back to his best. Photo: Sportsfile

IT was the eyes that gave it away. Davy Fitzgerald did his best at Nowlan Park to keep the lids simmering atop the pots and pans but the look on his face and the smile he struggled to contain betrayed him.

And why not?

As the Wexford fans walked dazed from a ground many had given up travelling to for fear of further punishment beating and Kilkenny supporters discussed in hushed tones whether their team were, in fact, about to embark on a period of forgotten anonymity. Fitzgerald tried his best to reflect on a spring so wildly successful that even he could hardly have envisaged it.

Whatever about promotion, that victory in Kilkenny carried so much weight.

It wasn't just the fact that Wexford hadn't won there since 1957 or the fact that they hadn't beaten Kilkenny at all anywhere since 2004.

And it wasn't only that they won by five points or that had it not been for the outrageous shot-stopping of Eoin Murphy, it could conceivably have been double scores.

It was all those things put together.

Plenty of words have been used to describe Fitzgerald's influence in Wexford but maybe revitalise is the most accurate.

Take Conor McDonald who, in 2013, looked unplayable and in possession of the best paw in hurling.

After two seasons of negligible impact, he took what was considered Brian Cody's most successful spring experiment - Pádraig Walsh at full-back - and made it seem frivolous and foolhardy.

Ditto Paul Morris whose three points from play didn't even tell the full story of his hugely productive Sunday afternoon.

True, Wexford would seem to be a couple of steps quicker than everyone around them just now and given the work they put in in January, that was the least Fitzgerald would have expected.

But the initial buzz that came with his appointment now has something tangible with which to justify itself.

For all that, it's saying something about Tipperary's current standing that a win for Wexford here would comfortably put their unblemished escape from Division 1B and their win at Nowlan Park in the ha'penny place.

The All-Ireland champions went to Tullamore fully-loaded in the quarter-final - the equivalent of bringing a bazooka to a knife fight at the moment.

With Cathal Barrett back now from knee surgery, their options are unmatchable in every section of the team.

ODDS: Tipperary 1/5, Draw 14/1, Wexford 4/1

VERDICT: Tipperary

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