Liam Sheedy: ‘I didn’t see guys who were throwing in the towel’
‘It hurts so badly because Wexford haven’t been there in 23 years,’ says Davy Fitz
Tipperary manager Liam Sheedy with Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald after Tipp’s 1-28 to 3-20 senior hurling championship semi-final win at Croke Park. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
Liam Sheedy has seen the fence from both sides and heard every last bit of gossip and grump passed across it. As Tipperary manager or just as a Joe Schmoe around the county, he knows what the people say about his players when the curtains are pulled. Here, even if only for one day, they gave their answer.
“It’s a difficult place to turn it around, when you are five points down and a man down and, look, there has always been questions about out character and could they really bring it. Did they have the pace? Did they have the energy and resolve? For the day that’s in it, they answered that emphatically.
I wasted a fair bit of energy myself in those last 20 minutes, because I knew they were still grasping
“This is a wonderful bunch. This is a bunch that has given me everything since November and they have been challenged. I’m just fortunate to have put a really solid team around them that has asked questions of them every night and the reason you did it is for days like today. A man down and five points down, it really was backs to the wall.
“I sit here today a really proud man because you don’t coach that. That comes from the inner resolve that each of those guys has. What a contest. What a weekend of hurling it has been. What a spectacle again. I’m probably on an emotional high again here now because you go through all those emotions on the sideline. I’m just thrilled for this group.”
Did he doubt they had it in them? When Wexford were bounding clear, darting in from all angles and setting sail for home? He must have, surely.
“No, I’ve seen enough of them,” Sheedy said. “They are just a great, great bunch. I felt it myself. I looked out and I didn’t see guys that were throwing in the towel. I said, ‘These guys are still going for it.’ And that’s probably why I wasted a fair bit of energy myself in those last 20 minutes, because I knew they were still grasping.
“The ball was going down, Ronan Maher was coming out, Brendan Maher was coming out. We transferred ball much, much better. Noel [McGrath] got on a lot of ball in midfield and when he gets on ball he distributes it really, really well. We really started to tick. I think [scoring] 12 points with a man down, out there in a very heated contest, is credit to every one of those players.
“It’s just really nice to see the guys performing. Over the last four weeks they’ve probably taken a fair bit with the Munster final performance, and obviously people were not happy with the performance against Laois. But we knew what we had. We felt the last two weeks went really, really well and overall we brought everything out on the pitch.”
Sense of loss
For Davy Fitzgerald, the sense of loss was profound here. His Wexford team could see the final on the horizon but couldn’t make it ashore. It’s 1996 since they were in one and the wait goes on.
I can tell you how I’m feeling and how the lads are feeling – you don’t want it
“It’s an opportunity, yeah,” said a disconsolate Davy Fitz. “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. 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 think we defended a small bit more when we got up five points instead of staying attacking and staying tight. I couldn’t be more proud of them though, how they tried to play that game was incredible, they were moving up and down the field.
“People talk to me about the sweeper system being negative, it’s time to get down off their high horses and just look at hurling and stop being so negative. It drives me nuts. People talking about stuff they haven’t a clue about.
“If you call Wexford negative then I don’t know because we were getting attackers, we were getting players all over the place. We scored three [goals] we could have scored six, we were there. We were right there.
“And to me, talk about hurling? That’s the right way to play hurling, not get it between two people and beat the lard out of each other.”