Fitzgerald did not name the critics of his team’s chances of advancing to the Allianz Division One final. But he referenced how Ger Loughnane’s comments earlier this month had motivated Kilkenny.
“There was one or two quotes used during the week that we used, that we might as well not turn up today,” said the Sixmilebridge man. “I thought it was very disrespectful. I don’t think we’re a bad team. I think we’ve showed that, over the last number of years. We’re not full of it, but, I think, when we’re right, we’ll compete, and that’s what we did today.”
Fitzgerald said he wasn’t annoyed by the comments. “No, it was great motivation. I hope people keep saying it! That’s brilliant, when you’re written-off. That’s great,” he said, before nodding to Loughnane’s remarks. “I was reading stuff that was motivating Kilkenny, when we didn’t actually say it, whatsoever, as a unit.
“We would have massive respect, and still have unbelievable respect, for Kilkenny. When you win back-to-back All-Irelands, you know that you’re a serious, serious team, and probably today will give them more motivation than anything.
“They’re going to come back stronger than ever. But we’d love the opportunity to meet them later in the year, if it works out that way. All we can do is take every match as it comes. I’m very proud of the lads today. It’s mid-April. Let’s not get carried away with anything stupid.”
Fitzgerald now rates Clare as “probably still third or fourth favourites for the All-Ireland”.
As they aim to win their first Division One title since 1978, Fitzgerald played down the idea of them shadow-boxing against Waterford on May 1, just five weeks before the counties meet in a Munster semi-final.
“It’s time, now, to start gearing up. I just know, from our point of view, we haven’t been in too many league finals in the last 10 or 15 years. It’s a national final. It’s fantastic to get there and I’m just proud we’re there. I played, maybe, two of them in 17 or 18 years? I said to the boys, ‘Let’s try and get there’.
“I think he’s (Derek McGrath) doing a fantastic job in Waterford. They’re reigning league champions. That’s a fair feat, to get to two finals in a row. Fair play to him. They strolled through Division One and, to me, they’re the best team in the country, without a shadow of a doubt, at the moment. We’ll have a battle on our hands to play them in two weeks’ time, but we’ll give it a go and see what happens.”