GAA news from around Ireland this week.
Waterford 1-24 Tipperary 0-21
With nothing to play for but pride, Waterford found that and managed to deny Tipp a place in the Munster final as this result sent them into the All-Ireland preliminary quarterfinals and a game against Offaly.
For Fitzgerald, it was all about silencing the naysayers at Semple Stadium. “It annoys me so much that you get cut the way we got cut after two bad matches. We played well against Limerick, should have won it, first half against Cork we were poor,” he told the media.
“In the second half, we matched them and had three goal chances and didn’t take them. Against Clare, we were matching them and had 12 wides to their four at halftime. We’d a poor second half and it affected us.
“Out of the whole Championship, we’d two halves that were poor and we got punished badly but to listen to some of the crap that I had to listen to the last few weeks is absolutely disgraceful and annoying so it is.
“I’m proud for the guys because those boys have trained so hard, they have worked so hard and it’s so annoying to see them be treated the way they are being treated.”
Former Waterford boss and current Tipp manager Liam Cahill was also in fighting form, expressing his disappointment at claims made by Fitzgerald that he inherited a squad with emotional baggage from the Cahill era.
“These Waterford players, they don’t use excuses. The narrative around Waterford the last couple of months was that there’s a bit of emotional baggage with that Waterford team. That’s the one thing that disappoints me about the whole thing. To me, that statement was unfair,” said Cahill.
“Waterford showed no emotional baggage today, only the good team that I know they are and the quality players that I was fortunate enough to be involved with the last three seasons.”
After his first Championship defeat as boss, Cahill was honest when asked if his team had suffered a hangover from the drawn Limerick game a week earlier. “These are quality players I have. That’s not them today. We only showed little snippets of what we are capable of,” insisted Cahill.
“I can’t stress enough how disappointed we are for the Tipperary public today to witness a lot of basic errors on our behalf and it is something myself, Mikey, the management, and the players are really going to have to man up and get sorted out.”
Wexford 4-23 Kilkenny 5-18
Their season may now be over and others will fight for the Leinster and All-Ireland crowns, but this was still the sweetest win in quite some time for the Wexford hurlers as they confirmed their top-flight status for next season in an incredible Wexford Park tussle with their fiercest rivals.
The Joe McDonagh Cup was beckoning for the Yellow Bellies if they had failed to find a way past Kilkenny but character was present in abundance for the home team, character personified by the brilliant Lee Chin who understood better than most what this victory meant.
“We all knew the situation and consequences today, of turning up and not performing,” Chin told RTE Sport. “Kilkenny were coming here already in a Leinster final, but for us it was do or die. We had to come here and perform.
“The game went back and forwards, I think they went up by seven at one stage in the first half, second half we went up by seven, then they came back and were up by two. We just had to stay honest. We got the reward in the end.”
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A week after a shock defeat to Westmeath, this was so different from Wexford. Chin, who scored 1-10 on the day, added, “We know the potential we do have inside our camp. Whether we get it out of ourselves every day is a question in itself.
“We let ourselves down a lot this year. It didn’t help with a lot of injuries throughout the National League, that didn’t give us any pattern or momentum going forward.”
Kilkenny manager Derek Lyng was left to rue injuries to Mikey Butler, Martin Keoghan and Adrian Mullen that could keep them out of the Leinster final with Galway and acknowledged his side lacked consistency at Wexford Park.
“I thought we were hurling very well in the first half, for the first ten or 15 minutes we looked very strong,” said Lyng. “Obviously we picked up a few injuries and that’s disappointing, especially with the tight turnaround in two weeks’ time.”
Limerick 3-25 Cork 1-30
Limerick survive to fight another day in the Munster SHC final and the All-Ireland Championship after this Gaelic Grounds victory – Cork’s summer is over as their involvement ends with the finale of the provincial round-robin series.
For All-Ireland champions Limerick, the prospect of a quick exit from the business end of the hurling season was ended by both this victory and Waterford’s shock win over Tipperary on a day when the doubters were put out to grass.
Still chasing a fourth successive MacCarthy Cup victory, Limerick will now meet neighbors Clare in the Munster final and Diarmaid Byrnes, who scored 1-4 on the day and won the Man of the Match award, was adamant afterward that the criticism fell on deaf ears.
“It was only four or five days ago we were dead and buried after a phenomenal couple of years that we have had,” Byrnes told RTE. “We’re happy to come out on top. It was a great performance, the lads are back on form.
“Hego (Gearoid Hegarty) last week, probably the worst player on the field, today absolutely outstanding. Now we march on. Outside noise, Caroline (Currid, sports psychologist) has us well driven. We’re far too experienced for that as a group. We don’t let any of that into our own circle.”
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Cork lost their final two games by just a point in the Munster series and are left with no games and nothing to play for between now and January.
Manager Pat Ryan said, “We’re gutted really, to be honest. We had lots of chances, we were obviously up against a very good team up here who probably played their best game of the year.
“Our job was to get out of the Munster Championship. We were looking to win an All-Ireland but we knew it was going to be very, very competitive. There’s huge disappointment.”
Dublin 2-22 Galway 1-25
That Dublin drew with Galway in their Leinster SHC round-robin clash on Sunday will come as a surprise to some but not to a relieved Henry Shefflin as the Tribes boss acknowledged just how far off the pace his team were at Croke Park.
Down 10 points at the interval, Galway did show their class at times in the second half and were a point ahead in added time when Donal Burke rescued the draw for a Dublin side now through to the preliminary All-Ireland quarterfinals against Carlow.
After big wins against Westmeath and Antrim, Galway looked sluggish at times even if their performance guarantees them a Leinster final date with Kilkenny.
“We thought our warm-up was very sharp and slick, but maybe it was just too nice. Dublin were very sure and we probably just weren’t ready for the physicality of it,” Shefflin told RTE Sport.
“I always felt that was going to be the case, it was going to be a step-up. The last couple of games probably didn’t do us any favors to be honest with you, because we weren’t ready. Our lads didn’t respond very well.”
A Conor Cooney penalty miss also cost Galway the win but Shefflin was happy they managed to claw their way back from 10 points down to lead going into extra-time.
“We’re a little bit disappointed we didn’t get over the line and get the victory. It would have been good psychologically to get the victory,” he continued. “We probably looked like we were going to win the game from there after the penalty miss, which was a good sign.”
Dublin manager and former Galway boss Michael O’Donoghue knew his team were close to a big Croke Park win. “We had put ourselves in a nice position,” he said. “We had to fight really hard to get a draw out of the game, but we are a young group.”
Antrim 4-24 Westmeath 1-19
Antrim confirmed their own Leinster Championship status for 2024 in the process and for Westmeath there was nothing but disappointment as manager Joe Fortune admitted afterwards.
He stated: “It’s a massive disappointment, but Antrim were the better team. We were two points up at half-time, but there was a big breeze and we knew that Antrim were going to come back at us.”
*This roundup first appeared in the May 31 edition of the weekly Irish Voice newspaper, sister publication to IrishCentral.