Fitzgerald not banking on 'inside knowledge'

Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald is playing down his knowledge of the Limerick team ahead of Sunday's All-Ireland SHC semi-final showdown between the counties at Croke Park.

Fitzgerald not banking on 'inside knowledge'

Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald is playing down his knowledge of the Limerick team ahead of Sunday's All-Ireland SHC semi-final showdown between the counties at Croke Park.

Fitzgerald managed Limerick IT to Fitzgibbon Cup glory in both 2005 and 2007 and coached current Limerick players Richie McCarthy, Paul Browne, Paudie O'Brien, Wayne McNamara, Gavin O'Mahony and Seanie Tobin during his spell with the Institute of Technology side.

Leading his native county through to an All-Ireland final on September 8 is all the former goalkeeper is focused on at present, as he prepares his troops for this weekend's all-Munster clash.

"We have played Limerick a few times and I had a few of them in with me in LIT. I don't think it gives me any advantage because these guys are good hurlers," admitted Fitzgerald, as he assessed Clare's opponents.

"I have been in Fitzgibbon finals with them. We wouldn't have got there unless they were good hurlers and the biggest thing I know about them – especially the likes of Richie (McCarthy) – they are wicked competitors.

"I know that but I'm looking forward to that battle. It's not going to be a bad thing that either Clare or Limerick will be in the All-Ireland final."

Fitzgerald bubbles with passion for hurling and often erupts in emotion at the end of a big Championship game. But he is playing it cool for the moment and measuring his words, describing Sunday's encounter as a "50-50 game".

Praising Limerick's achievement in winning their first Munster title since 1996, he stated: "They bring an unbelievable work ethic, a never-say-die attitude and the big thing is they have good hurlers.

"We know we are in for a massive day but it is one we are looking forward to. We have a chance of winning and I'm sure Limerick think the exact same. It's a 50-50 game, that's the way I see it."

The Sixmilebridge clubman has a fine crop of young talented hurlers at his disposal with Clare currently fighting on two fronts for All-Ireland success - at senior level and Under-21.

Clare made it back-to-back Munster Under-21 titles against Tipperary last week, setting up an All-Ireland U-21 semi-final against Galway on Saturday, August 24.

The Clare Under-21 panel chasing a second successive All-Ireland crown at the grade contains 14 senior panellists, evidence of the potential for the Banner men to become a real force in years to come.

Senior selector Louis Mulqueen has played down talk of this being a so-called 'golden era' for Clare hurling, insisting that 'potential and reality are two different things'. "Until they win something (at the top level), the golden era doesn't exist," he underlined.

This weekend marks Clare's first All-Ireland senior semi-final appearance since 2006 and key free-taker Colin Ryan knows the Banner youngsters will need to back up their underage success with senior silverware sooner or later.

"Like everything else, it's not a golden age unless you reap the benefits at senior level. Look at the Limerick treble Under-21 champions," he told the Irish Times, referring to the Limerick side from the early 2000s that struggled to make the breakthrough in senior hurling.

"Unless you get the rewards at senior level, you'll always be talked about as an underage team and not a senior team.

"Hopefully for us, it will bear fruits and we'll get senior success at some stage, whether that's this year or next year or down the line."

This is Fitzgerald's second season at Clare's helm and he feels they are very much in 'bonus territory' at this stage of the year, especially given the age and inexperience of some squad members.

Fitzgerald's charges have strung together a run of five Championship matches since early June - wins over Waterford, Laois, Wexford and Galway coupled with that Munster semi-final defeat by Cork.

Smiling at the prospect of a sixth summer outing, he beamed: "Isn't it great to have six games? It's not great when you lose to Cork and you are getting slated. But it's a long time since Clare had six games and we're delighted with the young lads and what they have achieved.

"People have asked me have they exceeded my expectations and they have, 100%. Anyone that knows anything about sport knows you're in your mid-to-late 20s when you are really in your prime. But to have eight or nine fellas under 22, that is a big ask of any team.

"They are maturing as they go along, they have been playing in patches all year, dropping in and out of games.

"But the last day (in the quarter-final against Galway) they were a lot more consistent. We will need a little bit more to beat this Limerick team. We'll need to up it a bit more."

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