John Mullane laughed in Davy Fitzgerald’s face as Waterford beat Clare in the Munster SHC semifinal on Sunday -- but Fitz had no problem with his former player’s reaction.
Mullane literally had the last laugh, on live television, as Waterford held out for a narrow win (2-17 to 1-18) against the Clare side managed by their former boss Fitzgerald.
The sideline celebrations caused something of a stir but Fitzgerald, who managed Waterford for four years before taking charge of his native Clare this summer, wasn’t bothered.
He said, “I think John Mullane was told something that was untrue about me saying he was finished as a player.
“Listen, I have no problem whatsoever and let me say this 100% on the record -- John Mullane is one of the best players I’ve ever seen and John Mullane has another two or three years in him big time if he wants,” Fitzgerald said.
“Sometimes people tell players things to get them riled up and to perform in a game. And I still think there’s a savage amount in that Waterford team. I have nothing but admiration and respect for them. They’ll have a say in this championship before it’s over, but don’t write off Clare.”
Fitzgerald also refused to criticize referee James McGrath for the first half penalty decision that cost his team an Eoin Kelly goal.
“You can say hard done by or whatever - I don’t read into that,” he added. “We had our chances. I’m not going to go into it. The analysts will see that themselves on television.
“I have no cribs whatsoever. Waterford won, end of story. Some days you’ll get breaks. Other days you won’t.”
Kelly insisted McGrath was right to award Waterford a contentious first half penalty after a tussle between Kelly and Clare defender Cian Dillon on the edge of the square.
“Oh, it had to be a penalty,” joked Kelly. “It was a free out first! The referee had a good game. There were no big decisions going one way or the other. We won -- that’s the main thing.”
Waterford boss Michael Ryan was delighted his team made it to their fifth Munster final in a row with the victory over former mentor Fitz.
“It was a real tough Munster championship battle and I was delighted to come out on top,” said Ryan after the win over Clare.
“There were times when the game seemed to be slipping away from us in the last six or seven minutes. They were on the crest of a wave and they’re a very fit, formidable side.”
Waterford will look to do better in this year’s final than they did against Tipp last year when they lost by a whopping seven goals.
Ryan added, “It’s a big result for us, there’s no two ways about it. The last time we played in the Munster championship we lost by 21 points in the Munster final.
“We had a poor enough start to the league campaign, we were missing a lot of lads, but we’re getting fellas back now, we’re seeing the benefit of getting fit. There’s a long way to go but we’re on the road.”
GALWAY boss Anthony Cunningham was more than happy with his team’s 14-point win over Offaly in the Leinster semifinal on Sunday.
The westerners will now meet Kilkenny or Dublin, who play this Saturday, in the provincial final next month after they hit the goal trail in Portlaoise.
“We would be happy any day you get into a Leinster final and get over the semifinal,” said Cunningham. “We were happy with our display today but we have a bit of work to do I have no doubt.
“We would probably be unhappy also that we conceded some scores that we will be looking hard at. It’s a great win for the lads, they have done everything we asked, but we will need to improve to get over a Leinster final.
“We need to be sharper in our play all over the field. It’s another step up for us the next day, but we have the players and we are well up for it.”
Forward Cyril Donnellan said that the Galway players are excited by the prospect of a first Leinster title.
“It’s massive -- no-one ever from Galway has won a Leinster medal. The lads inside the dressing room know the importance of it,” said Donnellan after he scored three points against Offaly.
“It was a great move for Galway to go to Leinster and a Leinster medal would be as important to anyone in there as anything. We’re four years in there and we’ve only contested one final in 2010.
“Kilkenny killed us off after 20 minutes and we would have been disappointed with it at the time. We’ve a chance to build on it now and see where it goes.
Offaly boss Ollie Baker was critical of his team’s defending against Galway.
“It was suicidal defending for the first 15 minutes and Galway got goals,” said Baker. “It was just defenders not standing up, not turning the man backwards and once they got past us.