THE RELIEF was palpable, but so too was the undoubted pride he has in his charges.
This, in the Davy Fitzgerald order of things, was no “get out of jail’’ feat by the Waterford men. Rather it was the fitting and deserving climax to a courageous fightback when all seemed lost.
“You never lose hope with these lads,” said Fitzgerald. “They are brave, they are unbelievable battlers, and they displayed both of these attributes in abundance.”
Fulsome in his praise of Cork, Fitzgerald said Waterford had shown tremendous character in hauling themselves back from five points in arrears with little more than a quarter of an hour remaining.
“That just doesn’t happen by accident. It took a whole lot of never-say-die spirit, wonderful hurling, and above all that refusal to accept what seemed to be inevitability of defeat. Yes the equalising goal came very late in the day but don’t tell me that over the course of the entire game we didn’t deserve to get a second chance.”
His only critical observation was that having eased into a four point lead early in the second half they lost their shape and as a consequence very nearly lost the game.
“I don’t know why we lost our shape, but how many teams would have fought back in the way that we did when we were on the ropes and Cork coming at us with all guns blazing?
“Cork’s two rapid fire second half goals had us reeling, but the lads responded as I always believed they would. This is a team of players who give every ounce they have to the cause. We would have been 100% hard done by had we lost this.”
Explaining the reasoning behind his decision to withdraw fullback Liam Lawlor in the 50th minute, the Déise boss said it was because of the yellow card he had picked up earlier for a foul on Aisake Ó hAilpín which was followed by a caution.
“Liam did fantastically well on the big full forward but because of the yellow card I felt it would be prudent to take him off rather than risk the fear of losing him in the crucial closing quarter. I completely stand over my decision believing that in the circumstances it was the right one to take.”
Commenting on 37-year-old Tony Browne’s last gasp equalising goal, Fitzgerald said he wasn’t at all surprised that “the young Tony Browne’’ was the one who had dug them out of the hole.
“He is just one fantastic player who makes a complete mockery of this age thing every time he goes onto a playing field.”
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