Fitzgerald beaten but unbowed as Tipperary finally close the deal
Clinical Forde hits 2-9 as Premier men end battling Wexford’s unbeaten run
Tipperary’s Patrick Maher feels the weight of Liam Ryan’s tackle at Semple Stadium. Photograph: Ken Sutton/Inpho
Tipperary 3-21 Wexford 1-21
Just because the night belonged to Tipperary doesn’t mean Davy Fitzgerald can’t take ownership of it. Putting an end to Wexford’s unbeaten run of 2018 is one thing; not quite letting go of it is another.
The end result was strangely contradictory – Tipperary convincing winners, Wexford uneasy losers. Patrick Maher’s late goal closed out the deal but, after a game that seemed to defy its own fate, Fitzgerald was perfectly entitled to his say.
“Very f-ing frustrating,” said the Wexford manager, and for good reason. Tipp maximised their scoring chances, and had Wexford nailed just a couple more of theirs – especially Conor McDonald’s late shots on goal – things could easily have been different.
“It was our mistakes cost us, 100 per cent. But God, what courage they showed. We could have drawn that game with a minute to go. So I’d be so heartened with the lads. But if you get five, six goal opportunities, you have to take them. Tipp weren’t that much better than us, and only because we dropped the head, and that’s down to us.
“I would 100 per cent believe we did not deserve to lose by six points. Tipp are a class team, got some sublime scores. But I said there’d be a few bumps on the road, and in a bad situation, we gave it hell. Daragh Mooney made two big saves in the end, so all in all, I’m not disappointed.”
Mooney’s saves were indeed telling – his first start in goal this season a strong claim for the rest of it too. Jason Forde was ultimately the difference, his night of quiet fury finishing on 2-9, his first goal on 13 minutes the strike of the match.
In the end 11 Tipp players scored, including 1-2 from Maher, and three more points coming from back in the defence. For Michael Ryan though the end result felt a little confusing, knowing what could or should have been.
“You do have to credit Wexford,” said the Tipp manager, “and I’m certainly glad we came away with the two points. Having been in good shape for much of that match, it would have been very disappointing if we didn’t. The momentum definitely swung, Wexford tore into us. But division 1A is dog-eat-dog, it’s Kilkenny next weekend, and there was loads of learnings here, and this showed again it can all swing so quickly. That’s hurling.”
Indeed Wexford somehow managed to claw it back to three points as the click spilled into injury time, having trailed by seven at the break – and still down 2-20 to 1-14 on the hour. They outscored Tipp seven points to one in the next 10 minutes, before Maher had the last say with his goal.
As a contest it was never less than enthralling – the first meeting between the teams since the shove-gate incident in their league semi-final last April (resulting in bans for Forde and Fitzgerald).
With Cork and Waterford already scalped, Kilkenny too in the Walsh Cup final, Wexford were possibly entitled to a dip here, and while Lee Chin finished with 0-10, he did miss several chances early on.
Chin was also dragged down on 16 minutes, Aidan Nolan sweet-spotting the resulting penalty, but after that Tipp inflicted the real damage, Forde’s accuracy from the placed ball, and the energy of Noel and John McGrath, leaving Wexford in the dust.
How they emerged from the chase to come so close at the finish will be flashing before Fitzgerald’s eyes for the rest of the week.
TIPPERARY: D Mooney; S O’Brien, J Barry, D Maher (0-1); B Heffernan (0-1), P Maher (capt) (0-1), P Feehan; B Maher, R Maher (0-1); S Curran (0-1), N McGrath (0-2), P Maher (1-2); M Breen (0-1), J Forde (2-9, eight frees, one sideline), J McGrath (0-1). Subs: B McCarthy (0-1) for Heffernan (52 mins), G Browne for Curran (60 mins), M Russell for Breen (66 mins).
WEXFORD: M Fanning; D Reck, L Ryan, C Firman; P Foley, M O’Hanlon (co-capt), S Murphy (0-1); D O’Keeffe, A Nolan (1-0, a penalty); K Foley (0-2), D Dunne (0-1), J O’Connor (0-2); P Morris (0-3, all frees), L Chin (co-capt, 0-10, two 65, four frees), C McDonald (0-1). Subs: R O’Connor (0-1) for McDonald (48 mins), C Dunbar for Dunne (59 mins), H Kehoe for Murphy (62 min), E Martin for O’Keeffe (70 mins).
Referee: James McGrath (Westmeath)