Davy Fitzgerald stuck for words - but only briefly
“Listen the way we have to rank it is Clare have been in five or six finals in over 120 years. That’s where you rank it.”
Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald: Photograph: “Even myself as a manager, you’re learning all the time you’re going along.” Photograph: Inpho/James Crombie.
Davy Fitzgerald, the dervish of the sideline, is at peace or at least at rest. After a vibrant and exhilarating afternoon watching a fine performance from his team topple Munster champions Limerick, he reflects on an All-Ireland semi-final that clicked smoothly into gear from the start and motored purposefully into Clare’s first All-Ireland final since 2002.
“I don’t know, I haven’t had to think about it too much yet,” he answers in response to a question on his feelings.
“Listen the way we have to rank it is Clare have been in five or six finals in over 120 years. That’s where you rank it.
“That’s a pretty big achievement, no matter happens. I’m so proud of these young lads. They are an example, so they are, to everyone playing the game because they work so hard – never say die.
“Have we taken a lot of stick over the last year and a half? We all have, but they kept coming back and it’s so nice when you know that when you ask them to do something, they’ll do it.
“And even though you get a beating – and I can remember a beating we got this year, and I might tell you again exactly what happened the day after, it was very interesting but unreal, but that’s for another day – but they were so mature out there today.”
Cryptic reminiscence aside, he had the satisfaction of seeing all of his tactical tweaks work splendidly.
As hard evidence of the team’s development the statistics on score-taking were formidable. Ability to move the ball to the best placed player and sensible if ambitious shot selection were combined with accurate finishing.
Even the manager was impressed.
“Jesus that’s a change for us, only to have five wides, I’ll tell you that. Normally you’re looking at 15 or 16, that’s our average most weeks, so I don’t know what the story is! I hope we didn’t use it all up today.”
He is sceptical about the idea that making a strong start – 1-4 to 0-1 ahead by the 12th minute – is some sort of tactical choice.
“Sure every game you play you want to start good. It was a big day for us today, we were wrote off by a lot of people, so we were, even though we had beaten Limerick a few times last year.
“We were probably unlucky in the championship as well so we thought we had a good chance today.
“But in saying that, my hat is off to Limerick. I went to watch them a few times this year and they played fantastic hurling – and deservedly so they are Munster champions.”
He undertook to release the under-21s for training in the week before the All-Ireland semi-final, as he had done before the Munster final.
The biggest downside for the county will probably be the fines accumulated on foot of Fitzgerald’s incursions on to the field to frequently to remonstrate with decisions he – to put it mildly – disagreed with.
“Do you want me to be as quiet as anything on the sideline? It wouldn’t be any fun for ye now if I was that way, so it wouldn’t.
“I wear my heart on my sleeve and I make no apologies for it. But I have to say that today, I felt pretty calm. If you watch me for most of it . . . I felt pretty calm to tell you the God’s honest truth.”
The All-Ireland beckons for a team that has momentum, is improving and has that imperishable confidence of youth on its side. And, the manager is keen to underline, potential to get better.
“Even myself as a manager, you’re learning all the time you’re going along. Even today I’m hoping I’ll learn more lessons because I know the next day is going to be a massive challenge – absolutely massive – and we’ll need to improve on our performance today to have any chance.
“To get over a semi-final is fantastic. Was it a super performance? Ye may say it was but I don’t think it was. We gave Limerick too many stupid opportunities; they missed a lot of scores in the first half.
“And if we do that to Cork, Cork will punish us, and we know that.”