As Davy Fitzgerald plans for a Division 1 semi-final against Kilkenny, the Clare manager has dismissed Ger Loughnane’s assessment of the reigning All-Ireland champions as merely “functional”.
“Ger will say stuff and that’s fine. I could never question what he says – he has been a great man to us. It doesn’t mean I’ll agree with everything he says, so it doesn’t. I would call Kilkenny a lot better than ‘functional’. You don’t win All-Irelands, as we know, being an average team. They are an unbelievable team. The bar is set with them. We respect that.
“Will we want to beat them? Of course, we want to beat them. But give them credit where credit is due. From the Clare management and backroom team, we see things differently as to how Kilkenny are. We respect what they’ve done. By God, we’re looking forward to a challenge against them.”
Even after scalping Tipperary, Fitzgerald maintains Clare are still behind the leading pack. “We weren’t far away no matter what the story is. We’re not a bad team. We’re a bit outside the top three or four still. Not much, but we’re still outside.
“I think it’s too early to judge anything. I know that was a good morale booster but Tipp will be back going really strong. When they meet us in the championship, I know they’ll be buzzing for road again. So we’re not fooled.”
That’s not to say Fitzgerald doesn’t agree that Clare are slowly but surely hitting performance targets last met in 2013.
“Last year we could easily have gotten the results. We were only a puck of the ball away (in a few games). Our attitude is a small bit better in that our tackles and blocks are up. It comes down to enthusiasm, down to desire.
“When you win an All-Ireland with a bunch of 20-year-olds, maybe you could cut them a bit of slack. To cope with winning is massive. I think we’re coming back to where we need to be.”
Fitzgerald was keen not to make too much of the players who were missing from the win over Limerick – David McInerney and Shane O’Donnell. “We didn’t think about that. We knew everyone else was talking about it. We decided not to focus on it.
“The lads out there, a lot of them did well, some didn’t. Even those who didn’t you can’t fault them, they ran themselves into the ground. I can’t ask any more than that.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved