‘The bond I have with this crew...I don’t think I’ve had it with any team’

Davy Fitzgerald is the very human version of an iPhone.

‘The bond I have with this crew...I don’t think I’ve had it with any team’

Davy Fitzgerald is the very human version of an iPhone.

There may well be an endless amount of unknowable circuits and switches under the surface that makes him tick but the screen could not be simpler to read.

Simplicity itself. Pushing the right buttons yesterday could not have been easier.

Fitzgerald was asked technical, hurling-specific questions after the game and the detail and clear-headed logic he offered in return was second-to-none. Exemplary.

But when talk turned to his players and things like heart and guts and a lost chance at an All-Ireland final, well, that’s when emotion took over. The Wexford manager choked up three times inside ten minutes.

Each time his answer stalled on a tightening windpipe before trailing away. We’ve seen this openness and honesty from him time and again in the past but this was as raw as it has come.

The air of hurt and regret was palpable.

“It’s funny, I’ve been over teams a long time,” he explained at one stage. “The bond I have with this crew... I don’t think I’ve had it with any team. They’re... You’re happy when you’re around them. Going to training is actually really good, I swear to God.

“You (drive) two hours 45 minutes from Clare and it isn’t an easy thing 120 times a year. They’re an unbelievable bunch. I really, really enjoy them and no matter what happens in Wexford I think I’ll be friends with these guys for a long time to come.”

Word was that this would be his last hurrah in the southeast and he spoke here about the toll his devotion to hurling had taken. “I think I just need to stop,” he said.

“It’s been 18 years playing and 13 other… No breather.”

There is an understanding that such words are built on the emotion of a moment rather than any calculation.

His analytical side worked perfectly when he computed just how Wexford let slip a five-point lead against 14 men with 20 minutes of normal time to go.

There was no guff about refereeing decisions or four-week breaks. Always the tactician, Fitzgerald saw the change in fortunes in clear terms.

“That was there for the winning. We did enough of stuff to nearly get over the line. I just feel the sending off... You’d think it would work for you.

"It actually didn’t. It allowed Tipp more space and they got to avoid our sweeper a good bit. They played smart and I feel our half-forward line retreated too deep.

"I was trying to get them out to midfield so we could stay running the ball. When we ran the ball there was only one winner in that game and it was just very hard to keep doing it.

"And whether it got into the boys’ heads that when we had the lad sent off, they just went a bit too direct, a small bit too direct for my liking.

“When we worked it short we were incredible through the line but, in saying that, you have to admire Tipperary’s resilience.

"They never gave up and fair play to them, that’s what hurling is about. My hat is off to them even though I’m absolutely so disappointed.”

You can imagine the months ahead. Fitzgerald will ruminate on how their default setting switched from attack to defence when John McGrath was sent off.

How maybe his boys seemed a bit leggy. How Tipp’s surge of momentum was just better timed than his side’s.

There was the inevitable urge to rue the penalty shout they had in the second-half that was ignored. And the handful of saves Brian Hogan made.

Three goals? They could have scored six.

But underlining all these thoughts was his pride in his boys and his utter certainty that we haven’t seen the last of this Wexford team. With or without him at the helm.

“Wexford are in a good place, there’s no fear of those guys. They’re up on the right side. They’re in the top two or three teams in the country.

"They’re right up there and deservedly so. They were Leinster champions, deservedly so. They beat Kilkenny and deserved to beat them.

"I’m just bulling that we don’t get another chance to play them again.”

Dalo's Hurling Podcast: Tipperary's defiance. Will Davy Fitz stay on? Kilkenny tactics. Cody's greatest semi-final victory?

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