In the aftermath of it, former dual player Redmond Barry on Twitter summed up how the county have taken him to their hearts: “That sort of stuff used to annoy me when he was over Waterford and Clare. Now he’s over Wexford I love it #gwandavy #freeout”
In lifting them from Division 1B, beating Kilkenny in Nowlan Park for the first time since 1957, guiding them on a six-game winning run and simply making a dormant support base believe again, Fitzgerald had already won over Wexford in just a few short months. However, by going out on a limb and risking a ban which should be proposed in the coming days, he has further endeared himself to the purple and gold. Clare were “small, little fish” but Wexford are plankton and here he was standing up for them.
Even if the foul on James Breen wasn’t called much to Fitzgerald’s fury, the 16-3 free count in their favour suggested Wexford weren’t swimming all that much against the tide but then, as he admitted, his encroachment was also an attempt to put Tipperary off their game. Limerick will remember he did something similar in the Division 1B final four years ago when he provoked midfielder James Ryan into giving him a dunt. Fitzgerald initially rowed with his opposite number John Allen following a David Breen foul on his player, James McInerney, before Ryan minutes later ran into Fitzgerald as the ball went out over the sideline.
Fitzgerald recalled after the game: “What actually happened with your man (Ryan) was that it took his focus off the game. He was actually cleaning us at the time but after that, we got more on top at midfield. I’ll take a small little tip like that – I’ve got a lot worse than that in my time.
“If it takes his focus off the game, delighted, that’s no harm.”
Running onto the pitch as he did on Sunday, he perhaps hoped to goad a Tipperary player into doing something stupid, like Ryan did, as he aimed to inspire his players. He acknowledged what he did was unacceptable but he stood unrepentant. It may be argued that as Ryan managed to escape with a yellow card for his challenge on him then Fitzgerald too should be shown leniency but it doesn’t work that way nor should it. That Diarmuid Kirwan chose not to send him off may work in his favour although the Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) don’t even require a mention of the incident in Kirwan’s report to hand down a recommended suspension.
So what is Fitzgerald likely to be slapped with? Unlike most bans nowadays, it is unlikely to be match-based. The CCCC has a choice between Rule 7.2 (c) Category II (a) – “any type of physical interference with an opposing player or team official” – which carries a minimum eight-week suspension and a maximum of 16, Rule 7.2 (d) – “disruptive conduct by players, team officials or supporters (not causing the premature termination of a game)” – a penalty for which is made at the discretion of the CCCC, or a misconduct charge.
An eight-week suspension would rule him out of a Leinster quarter-final at the end of May but, should Wexford win that, also the already-anticipated semi-final clash with Kilkenny in Wexford Park on June 10 as it falls on a Saturday, just a day short of the eight weeks being served. To be deprived of a first championship sideline encounter with Brian Cody since the 2011 All-Ireland semi-final would grate Fitzgerald.
The CCCC will have to be seen to do something anyway. Even Fitzgerald seemed to acknowledge that when, as much as he argued he wouldn’t be banned, he said: “Whatever it is, it is.”
The CCCC have done some silly things before like the Tiernan McCann case and there will be an appetite among some to teach Fitzgerald a lesson but it is widely accepted a manager encroaching the field as he did can’t be excused.
There is no individual in hurling who is more of a sucker for the underdog than Fitzgerald yet he doesn’t come across as a romantic. In many ways, he’s as hard-nosed as they come but if he recognises there is a noble fight worth fighting then his gloves are off. Until he is in your corner, the chances are you’re not going to warm to him. But when he is, as Barry’s tweet conveyed, you couldn’t be happier. Whatever happens in the coming days and weeks, whether he remains a manager on the line or becomes a cause celébrè, Wexford have their man.
They’ll have his back because he has theirs.
Insults can’t be tolerated
Word reached Nowlan Park on Sunday about a brief exchange in the Gaelic Grounds between a Galway hurler and two journalists who had asked him for a few words after their victory over Limerick.
Not only was the player’s response a negative but it carried an expletive too aimed at the quality of the writers’ work.
Now, here in the Fourth Estate we can often be accused of being precious but a bit of civility would hardly have gone astray.
Galway may believe that restricting media access is to their gain and that’s their prerogative but when some players’ livelihoods are also dependent on column inches almost as much as the journalists in question then it literally pays to play ball.
This individual wasn’t the first and he won’t be the last to take issue with what is conveyed in the press, which is fine providing it is constructive or at least he can back it up.
We remember one Mayo footballer jibing a local journalist about how many Galway players would get in a team combining the two counties as he came off the pitch after Mayo beat them by 17 points in a Connacht quarter-final four years ago. But insults can’t be tolerated.
Players have every right to take umbrage when they find fault with what is being said or written about them or their team. There are means of replying to that be it on the pitch or in print.
Storing up such beef, certainly in Galway’s case, hasn’t proven to be healthy.
Indulging in nasty remarks reflects poorly on those who make them more than anybody else
Leinster see sense in scheduling
For awhile there, we wondered just how interested the Leinster Council were in seeing their football teams progress beyond their championship. In 2014 (when the split qualifier system was introduced( and 2015, the team defeated by Dublin in the provincial semi-final had the ignominy of having to ready themselves for a game seven days later – Wexford (’14) and Kildare (’15).
Kildare got away with it; Wexford didn’t.
Meath, who lost to Dublin at the same stage last year, were fortunate to be given an extra week before facing Derry only to be defeated. Louth, the team Meath beat in the Leinster quarter-final, were forced to go to Derry just six days after the provincial game and duly lost.
This year, by choosing to split their semi-finals in June, the Leinster Council have ensured the losers of one game won’t have to face a qualifier the following weekend.
The beaten team in the “A” semi-final on June 17 – Kildare, Laois, Longford, Meath or Wicklow – won’t be out again until July 1.
The defeated “B” semi-finalist to Dublin (yes, we’ll boldly make that call now) – Carlow, Offaly, Westmeath or Wexford – also have a two-week break from June 25 to July 8.
For record’s sake, the teams on the A side of the qualifiers are: Connacht – New York, Galway, Mayo, Sligo; Leinster – Kildare, Laois, Longford, Louth, Meath, Wicklow; Munster –Clare, Kerry, Limerick, and Ulster – Antrim, Derry, Donegal, Tyrone.
On the B side are: Connacht – Leitrim, London, Roscommon
Leinster – Carlow, Dublin, Offaly, Westmeath, Wexford
Munster – Cork, Tipperary, Waterford and Ulster – Armagh, Cavan, Down, Fermanagh, Monaghan.