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Davy Fitzgerald - 'I'd have got killed if he didn't score that point'

The Clare boss made the big call to change freetakers in injury-time in yesterday’s hurling league final replay.

A jubliant Davy Fitzgerald after yesterday's league final triumph.
A jubliant Davy Fitzgerald after yesterday's league final triumph.
Image: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

DAVY FITZGERALD REVEALED that he had made the decision himself to change Clare freetakers and entrust Tony Kelly with the responsibility in injury-time in yesterday’s Division 1 hurling league final replay.

Nearing the end of the second-half, Colin Ryan struck a free wide for Clare and with the Banner trailing by a point at the death, Fitzgerald instructed 2013 Hurler of the Year Kelly to hit the placed ball.

His faith was rewarded as Kelly split the posts and then found time to strike over the winning score to seal a dramatic victory for the Banner.

“I’d have got killed if he didn’t score that point from the free because I changed the free-taker myself,” admitted Fitzgerald after the game.

“I felt he was on fire, I felt that that was one made for him and I asked him to hit it.

“I don’t know would the other selectors have killed me if it went wide. It was a call, he did it, great man for the big occasion and fair play to him.

“We were in trouble for a lot of that game. We were down three points, four points, five points. It went to six points. It’s hard.

“I felt we were always chasing today. There’s always hope. When there’s time there, there’s always hope. That’s massively important.

“We haven’t won a League title since 1978 and we’re extremely proud in Clare to win that and it means a lot to us, especially after a tough year or two in the last year or two. Hats off to the boys but credit to Waterford as well. I thought they were immense.”

The concession of two first-half goals was a major setback to Clare but their manager paid tribute to Patrick O’Connor for recovering from that rocky start.

“The two goals, I’ll tell you exactly how they happened,” outlined Fitzgerald.

“The first one happened because we hadn’t our extra man back. It happened right at the throw in.

“So we made a drastic mistake. Our extra man wasn’t in place the time he should have been in place, because I don’t believe the first goal would have happened (then).

“The second one, Pat O’Connor was trying to clear the ball and it fell short. He was unlucky.

“When you’re in that full-back position and things go wrong, you’re the last line of defence. And when that happens, your head can play tricks with you.

“I thought Pat O’Connor showed tremendous composure to come back and deal with that. He gave short balls after that we encouraged him to do that.

“It wasn’t easy after giving away those two goals to come back again.”

Clare and Waterford will renew acquaintances in the Munster semi-final on 5 June

“Listen, let’s be realistic, it was great for us, we hung in, we got the win but they could equally have got it, so what a battle.

“We’ve seen two unreal battles. Jesus, what more is going to come on June 5th. They’ll have the bit between their teeth on June 5 and we will too.

“So it’s going to be crazy out there but I’m looking forward to it. I think they’re going to have a massive say this year, I really believe that.

“Maybe I’m a bit biased because I was down there for three years and I absolutely loved my time down there.

“But I think they’re going to be tough.”

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Kelly the scoring hero as Clare claim dramatic league final win over Waterford

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Fintan O'Toole

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