Clare's David Fitzgerald ready for Wexford battle
By John Harrington
Clare defender David Fitzgerald says the Banner County have girded themselves for a do or die battle against Wexford in Sunday’s All-Ireland SHC Quarter-Final.
Clare were beaten All-Ireland quarter-finalists in 2016 and 2017, so they need to win this match to prove they’re a progressive team rather than one that’s standing still.
Losing to Cork in the Munster SHC Final surely took a psychological toll, but Fitzgerald has no doubts they’re ready to put their best foot forward again.
“Lads are looking forward to it,” he said. “Whether you’d a good game or a bad game, you’re only as good as your next game kind of approach with the current championship situation.
“A lot of lads might have felt they possibly didn’t have their best game, others were happy with their performance against Cork.
“This gives you the chance to go out again in quick succession and up your game. As a whole we have to up it from the Cork game.
“It was an objective of ours at the beginning of the year to try to get back to Croke Park.
“We could have got there if we beat Cork, we didn’t, so Saturday is our last chance, do or die now really.”
Fitzgerald believes the experience of the round-robin stage of the Munster Championship when they were also beaten by Cork has made the team more mentally resilient in the face of adversity. “I suppose the lesson for this year, the fact that games have been coming week in week out, you haven’t had time to dwell on your previous performance, whether it was good or bad,” he said.
“Players are happy that, whether you’d a bad game, good game the previous week, it’s all about your focus on your next game. The Wednesday after the Munster final, we were fully tuned in.
“Other years we’d play one Munster championship game, we’d either lose or win it and you’d be into the qualifiers then, you’d be trying to build up momentum whereas this year we’ve our momentum built so there is a belief around the place.”
With Davy Fitzgerald now manager of Wexford, there will be no secrets between the respective teams this Saturday. The Clare players know how Fitzgerald likes to set up his teams, and Fitzgerald has an intimate knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of these Clare hurlers having managed them from 2012 to 2016.
Few predicted he’d jump straight back into management with Wexford last year, but his namesake Fitzgerald wasn't surprised.
“I wasn’t no,” said Fitzgerald. “I knew he’d go into management again. He’s really driven that way. He’s good. You see what he’s done with Wexford. They’re really All-Ireland contenders at the minute.
“He will get the best out of you no matter what, he’ll have every player driven. I suppose it’s evident in Wexford, the strides they’ve made.
“They were very unlucky this year not to make the Leinster final, there was only a puck of a ball between themselves and Kilkenny, below in Nowlan Park. It’ll be the same on Saturday.”