Davy Fitzgerald’s pitch invasion lets Tipperary slip into final
Five-goal push from All-Ireland champions overshadowed by Wexford manager
Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald and Aidan Nolan clash with Jason Forde of Tipperary. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/INPHO
Even when Davy Fitzgerald isn’t the story, he’s the story. His talent for attracting the spotlight is one of the few things we can be reasonably sure will survive any imminent nuclear war. Wexford’s wondrous spring came to an end in the league semi-final with Tipperary running out 5-18 to 1-19 winners in Nowlan Park, but have a leaf through the pictures that accompany all the various reports and it’s unlikely you will find too many shots of the goals. Instead it will be all Davy, all over the place.
His incursion onto the pitch after the second Tipperary goal midway through the first half here went far beyond the usual norms of pitch encroachments. Incensed by referee Diarmuid Kirwan’s inaction when Wexford corner-back James Breen was fouled in the build-up to the goal, Fitzgerald strode onto the grass in high dudgeon and was almost at midfield by the time he turned for home.
On his way back, he got into a bout of shoulder-dunting with Tipperary player Jason Forde after a shouting match with Niall O’Meara. There followed a brief pile-up, with Wexford players steaming in to back up their manager.
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. I was hoping they might respond a small bit more
In the end, only Aidan Nolan, the Wexford midfielder saw a card when all was said and done. Kirwan seemed keen to just get the game going again, possibly already in the knowledge that he had made a bad error. He didn’t even give Fitzgerald a talking-to.
Presumably, the authorities will do that for him over the coming days. The Wexford county board will certainly have to stump up a fine and you would have to imagine Fitzgerald will face a touchline ban heading into the championship. The Wexford manager was sanguine enough about the prospect afterwards.
“I don’t think they’d do that to me,” he said. “It would be no fun if I was up there [in the stands]. You’d have nothing to write about if I’m up there! I know ye’ll do me all the favours under the sun tomorrow, saying that shouldn’t happen. Whatever it is, it is. I’d like to think common sense . . . I won’t do it again if that’s any consolation.
“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. I was hoping they might respond a small bit more. They responded after that, which was no harm with a bit of fight. Let me make this clear, 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.
“Don’t dwell on that tomorrow. If you’ve to mention it do, but I think the game deserves it.”
Hmm. Good luck with that one, Davy. Although, I’ll say this much for his efforts – Tipperary were only awarded one free in the remaining 52 minutes of the game. That said, Tipp will be quietly delighted for his intervention, the brouhaha allowing them to slip into a league final almost unnoticed. They were in a game here, right up until the hour mark, with only a couple of sucker-punch goals in the first half keeping them in front.
They led 2-12 to 0-16 in the 60th minute and as Wexford had a strong wind at their backs, you wouldn’t have picked a winner with any huge confidence. But even with Kirwan appearing to even things out – the final free count was a bewildering 16-3 in Wexford’s favour – Tipp went on the sort of scoring burst only they can access to finish the game in a flash.
The McGrath brothers filled their boots with another goal apiece, first John, followed two minutes later by Noel. Brendan Maher ran in another five minutes after that, meaning that Tipp had turned a two-point margin into 14 in the space of just nine minutes.
It was a game and then it wasn’t. Peak Tipperary.
They will meet Galway in Limerick’s Gaelic Grounds on Sunday, Micheál Donoghue’s side running out 1-21 to 1-11 winners in the other semi-final. They took most of the afternoon to shake Limerick off but Conor Cooney’s goal 14 minutes from time did the trick.
“Coming down after being here three weeks ago, it was going to be a challenge for us,” Donoghue said afterwards. “I thought Limerick would be motivated for it, which they were. The elements here for both teams were hard enough. From our own perspective, I thought we started okay. We went in at half-time with a few points’ lead. In fairness to them, they came back at us in the second-half and Conor’s goal came at an opportune time for us. That gave us a bit of daylight from there to the end.”