Fitzgerald 'feeds off heart and spirit'

Davy Fitzgerald was a relieved man in the red-hot atmosphere of Semple Stadium yesterday, as his Waterford charges pipped Wexford by a point to set up a shot at Munster champions Tipperary.

Davy Fitzgerald was a relieved man in the red-hot atmosphere of Semple Stadium yesterday, as his Waterford charges pipped Wexford by a point to set up a shot at Munster champions Tipperary.

Fitzgerald sunk to his knees and put his head in his hands after referee John Sexton blew for full-time, confirming the Deise's 2-19 to 3-15 win and their qualification for a third straight All-Ireland semi-final.

This was the former Clare goalkeeper's third championship win on the trot as Waterford's new manager, but this particular 70 minutes was his most nerve-wracking yet on the sideline.

The leaking of goals to Wexford's Stephen Doyle (2) and Willie Doran had the Deise scrambling to get back in touch at 3-09 to 1-11 down.

However, Dan Shanahan, who had been having a rather listless summer, rippled the net with a trademark goal and Eoin Kelly's 1-08 haul, allied to strong contributions from Eoin McGrath, Tony Browne and John Mullane, saw the men in white and blue prevail.

Drawing breath outside the dressing room, Fitzgerald exclaimed: "All I'm happy about is that, when the game turned against us two or three times, we didn't give up.

"We stayed with it. And trust me, the tide had turned against us a few times. But the lads never threw in the towel at any stage. They kept believing.

"That is the hallmark of good players and a good team. And while it was far from being our best performance, nothing can take from the heart and spirit every player produced."

Fitzgerald paid special tribute to Shanahan and Mullane, two of the most enigmatic forwards in the modern game.

"It may have taken John a bit of time to get into his stride but when he did he was unstoppable," he said.

"In that second half in particular he turned the game for us more than once, he scored himself at crucial times and then set up others for equally vital scores.

"People have been criticising Dan Shanahan. I was criticised for not taking him off last week (against Offaly). But I had that feeling he'd come good. He's working very hard in training, he's very honest.

"Listen, when I was against these lads before, I fought them in battle. I knew what they were made of," added the Sixmilebridge man.

Fitzgerald knows though that Waterford will have to up their game considerably in order to challenge Tipperary at Croke Park on August 17.

Plenty of hard work lays ahead, but the three-week break between matches will afford the Deise a chance to take stock.

"There were certain things I wasn't happy about. While three (goals) in as many games might not be all that many, I just didn't like the way in which we gave them away to Wexford.

"On another occasion we would be brutally punished - especially by a team of Tipperary's undoubted class," added the Clare boss.

"Really, after a tough run of games, what we need most right now is a breather, and I may give them (the players) a week off."

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