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Clare manager Fitzgerald passes plaudits onto players in moment of glory

By Declan Bogue

All-Ireland final day. Back in the bunker. Can go any way to be honest, but when we see Davy Fitzgerald bounding in with all the self-imposed pressure of the world off his shoulders, we know we are in for some heartfelt stuff.

What was going through your mind Davy, just as you were about to become only the third manager to lead Clare to an All-Ireland title?

"I just desperately wanted to win, to tell you the truth."

That's more like it!

He continues: "The biggest test of a Clare team that I've ever seen is when they brought it back to zero because everything was going against us. It's not down to anything I've done or our management; it's down to the boys themselves. These young boys have incredible resilience.

"It didn't come from anyone else training them, it comes from themselves. They are good kids, they are honest kids. They never give up."

He wore a wry smile when asked about the impact of Shane O'Donnell, scorer of 3-3, and how they only told him he was starting less than two hours before throw-in.

"I rang him the last few days and said 'you're probably going to come on at some stage' and we decided just to keep it from him. Now, probably everyone else in the county knew (he would start)."

It's at this point where Tony Kelly, flanking Fitzgerald, breaks out into a grin and reveals, "He was coming off the bus and he nearly got sick!"

Did they exceed his expectations?

"In my heart of hearts I know that anything is possible and to be honest I believe in them."

The last time Fitzgerald faced the press after a decisive final was as coach of Waterford in 2008 when they were beaten by Kilkenny by 23 points. How that might compare, Davy wouldn't be drawn.

"There's been a few tough years from my point of view. A lot of stick and different things, but this feels good.

"Am I going to say anything to risk getting the back cut off me? Nah. I don't think I need that. This feeling is just ... So happy for the lads."

Given his reputation, you might have thought he had driven this group of youngsters relentlessly. Not so, as he revealed.

"The longest session we had in the last three weeks was one hour and seven minutes. The rest of our sessions was probably 30 or 40 minutes," he said.

"We took a chance on freshness. If you think about it, we had to be at Championship pace for the league because we just wanted to survive.

He continued to enthuse, "I love seeing them express themselves. I was watching him there the other day at full pace (Kelly), bouncing the ball and not a bother on him, taking a score when the score doesn't look on. We have a thing to go out and express themselves and I love watching them, I love it."

Jimmy Barry Murphy had been in before, briskly tidying up on the last remaining bit of business of the season, albeit a grisly one it can be.

With typical honesty, he conceded that Clare were simply better.

"Both days, really, we were playing catch-up from the word go," he said.

"You have to do everything right and if you don't take everything that goes your way – it's got to be perfect – and our luck eventually ran out. We were beaten by a much better team on the day. On both days, I've got to acknowledge, they deserved it."

Still, he has restored the pride in Cork. And they will be back.

If we can have another year like that in our lifetime following hurling, we will all be blessed.

Belfast Telegraph


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