Hands on: Waterford manager Davy Fitzgerald shouts orders from the sideline during the second half of Sunday’s gripping encounter.  | Photo: Michael Kiely

Hands on: Waterford manager Davy Fitzgerald shouts orders from the sideline during the second half of Sunday’s gripping encounter. | Photo: Michael Kiely

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You got the feeling that Davy Fitz would have happily jigged across the desk occupied by tape recorders in Croke Park on Sunday evening. If he had, I for one wouldn’t have begrudged him – I might even have joined in!

But for such an expressive type, the Waterford manager proved remarkably calm while reflecting on his guiding the Deisemen to their first All-Ireland final since the days of JFK and the Beatles.

“There’s two bits of emotion from me, to tell you the truth,” he began in his address to the notebook wielders.

“It’s probably after the most difficult year and a half of my life, things had gone on and I wasn’t able to say anything and I still won’t say anything.

“But isn’t it always funny, at the end of the day, there’s swings and roundabouts and personally, myself, I’m delighted to be there.”

Not for the first time since his appointment, Fitzgerald reflected on his initial hours in the Deise hot seat and the immediate impression the panel made upon him.

“When I went down the first or second night to training, I could see the likes of the older Waterford players,” he began, before adding, “you don’t have any idea what it means to them to be able to contest the final”.

“These guys’ hearts and souls are inside in this and I knew I had a special bunch of players when I went down there. All these guys want is a chance to win the Liam McCarthy and now they have it.”

But the lid of expectation remained firmly pressed shut as Fitzgerald mused over the palpitating 70 minutes that had just passed.

“We don’t have any illusions on today. We know today could have gone to Tipperary just as easy as we won it. Tipp had the chances and they had the wides.

“But I think we showed a good bit of character when the (Tipp) goal went in; we were just after getting one. Normally that would break a team, but it didn’t break them and I’d pay them a lot of respect for that.”

And then came the stoicism and the sort of tempered comment that Fitzgerald will have bouncing off the Walsh Park dressing room walls for the next few weeks.

“But in saying that, it’s a semi-final. We’ve won nothing. I’m not under any illusions as to what we’re facing. It’s a great win for them boys and I’m proud of them. But I think, I expected a performance out of them.

“Let’s be honest about this and this is straight up stuff. Anyone that watched the Cork/Kilkenny game last week would give no-one in the country a chance so they wouldn’t – and that’s a fact. The way they played last week, they just brushed Cork aside and Cork are an experienced outfit.”

So then, what’s next?

“Now we’ve two choices – we can go out and enjoy the day and give ourselves no chance or we can get down to work again tomorrow night, tear into it and let’s see what happens. We will be big time underdogs but we’ve been that all year. These players have taken a lot of stick but we’re still there and let’s see what happens.”

Only his team can stop Brian Cody’s from a three-in-a-row which would surely establish the Cats as the greatest inter-county side in the history of the game. It’s a challenge you just know Fitzgerald is going to relish.

“I have got tremendous respect for Kilkenny. I know the team they are, I know the manager they have – and they’re awesome. But, on any given day for 70 minutes, you don’t know what can happen.

Added Fitzgerald: “Tipperary’s time is going to come and that’s a fact. Liam Sheedy and his boys have done a fantastic job and their time will come. That could have gone their way just as easily today but it didn’t – it went ours and I’m delighted with that.”

And off he went, surely allowing himself a night of tempered celebration before putting his mind to the next task – the greatest one of all.