As post match reactions go, Waterford manager Davy Fitzgerald’s comments following Sunday’s drawn Munster semi-final rank among the more explosive in the game’s recent history.
To give Fitzgerald his due, the rod wasn’t spared exclusively for the Munster Council, whom he sharply criticised given the manner in which his son Colm was treated by an official before the match.
His team badly misfired in the second half and he didn’t attempt to gloss over that, but it was clear that the incensed Waterford manager was distracted by his son’s treatment at Semple Stadium.
“There were certain things today since we came that I wasn’t happy about,” said the Deise boss.
“I won’t say it, but even the way my young fella was treated wasn’t right. It wasn’t right. The Munster Council has to have a good look at themselves.
“Like, we f***ing play this game because we love it and we do it. They should think, think so they should, instead of these stupid f***ing regulations at times. That’s being honest about it and I am being honest about it.
“I am a f***ing hurling man and I would be a bit put out about one or two things that happened today, very put out.
“Now it’s nothing to do with the game, nothing to do with Limerick and their performance, I’ve nothing but respect for Limerick with the way they played and conducted themselves today. That’s the type of team they are, wholeheartedly honest.
“But I wasn’t happy with one or two other things and one or two comments that were thrown in my direction. Not happy.”
By whom, he was asked by a reporter in an empty Semple dressing room availed of for post-match media purposes. “Not going to say,” replied Fitzgerald. “I’m not going to go into it anymore,” but then he did just that.
“I’m just not happy with the way we were treated today. My little fella is years going to games and I just didn’t like what happened before the game today. Just didn’t like it.
“This game is about promoting things for young fellas, end of story and a lot of us give up a lot of our time; grand I’ll get a few expenses for Waterford but I do an awful lot of stuff for the GAA that I’d never, ever take a cent for or want a cent for.
“And I was fuming today, absolutely fuming. I think there were two or three incidents the way we were treated that I wasn’t happy with today. If you’re doing things, do them straight, do them honestly, but don’t take it out on small young fellas that love the game.”
Fitzgerald was pressed for the specifics of his complaint, which he later made plain to a Munster Council official.
“Something happened at the start,” he began. “Over the last number of years, any team I’ve been involved with, he’s been with me and he loves just hanging around. But he was held back; there was an arm put around him and [and he was] not allowed in.
“I’d prefer just to leave it at that. I’m just disappointed. This f***ing game is about young people and about kids enjoying and looking at it. Whatever happens outside on the field will happen.
“Listen, I’ll take the abuse – I’m sure I’ll get plenty of it after today and there’s no problem with that, we’ll get it and take it, not a bother. Some fellas, when they get power, it tends to go to their heads a small little bit – [they’d want to] have a f***ing look at themselves in the mirror.”
He added: “And even when we came out for the second half – I thought we were well within our rights when we came out.
“I was told Limerick went out and we were out about a minute and a half after them, whatever the story was. I didn’t think we did anything wrong but yet I got a small bit of abuse coming out of the tunnel and I wasn’t happy with it. That’s not on.”
For its part, the Munster Council later refused to provide an immediate reaction to the nature of Fitzgerald’s complaint.
So what about the game itself and Waterford’s overall performance?
“We’re glad to get another chance,” said Fitzgerald. If I could answer [what happened to Waterford in the second half], I’d be a happy man.
“Listen, we played a great first half, I thought we were totally in control, hurled well and probably could have been up a bit more at half-time.
“But when a team gets momentum on you like that, it’s fair hard to stop it. Our second half performance was not acceptable, not good enough whatsoever. Limerick should have won the game in the end, that’s being honest.”
Stated Fitzgerald: “We’ve no excuses. Limerick should have won the game, fair play to them, they’re a good team. We know we’re in a battle next Saturday.
“From our point of view at half-time I can assure you, we re-iterated the message that we had to go hell for leather. I was a bit disappointed the way things happened at the [start of the] second half; the way you’re going out and a team is coming back in against you.”
The confusion regarding the resumption of the match was also weighing heavily on the Waterford boss’s mind.
“We certainly got no knock on our dressing room [door],” he said. “No nothing. Yet one official from the Munster Council clearly wasn’t happy with us coming out when we did; don’t know what the story is.
“To me, the game was held up for another four or five minutes which wasn’t right. I was disappointed with that.
“But in saying that, I think you have to hand it to Limerick. They showed tremendous bottle in the second half. And I’ve been saying it the whole time: there’s awful fight in them guys. They’ll fight to the bitter end and they did it today and I’m sure they’ll do it again next Saturday.”
Asked to assess individual displays, Fitzgerald offered the following observations on Ken McGrath and championship debutant Noel Connors.
“Ah sure it didn’t work today [Ken at centre-forward], that’s being honest about it. But I think Michael Walsh had a great first half, he did well there, you know.
“Centre-forward is where Ken has been all year; he’s had some good games and some bad games and there’ll be no fear of Ken. Ken will be back, he’ll be playing next week and there’ll be no fear of him whatsoever.
“I thought Noel Connors was tremendous. I thought our backs weren’t bad in general, to tell you the truth. There was an awful lot of pressure there at the end and we came out with ball after ball.”
Fitzgerald remained bluntly honest when reflecting on a second half in which his team failed to register a point from open play.
“We didn’t seem to move well from midfield through to the half-forward line, we couldn’t get the ball through. We weren’t winning the 50/50 balls; it was like a scrum out there most of the time.
“The match in the second half was dreadful. It was absolutely cat to watch. I’d hate to have been paying to watch that today, it was terrible and that’s being honest.
“But at the end of the day, if you were from Limerick or Waterford you wouldn’t have minded that if you got a win. It’s back to the drawing board for next week. We’ll see what the story is and maybe, please God, we’ll get a fine day and see what happens.”
Fitzgerald conceded that Waterford were “lucky in the end” and suggested that Limerick may go into next Saturday’s replay with the greater regret.
“They had the momentum, they had more chances than we had, I’m not foolish enough to think otherwise. Maybe they’ll be kicking themselves that they didn’t take the win today.
“If you look at our first half, I thought we were motoring pretty well. We probably had a goal chance or two that we should have taken. If we’d gone in a few more points up, maybe the game would have been decided.”
While it was a difficult match to referee, Fitzgerald felt that Diarmuid Kirwan ought to have awarded his team a first half penalty after a goal-bound Eoin McGrath was upended.
“I thought that was a very harsh decision. It was clear, it was blatant. It was one on one and he didn’t even get a free out of it. But if I give out about that, I’ll be in trouble as well so I won’t say any more. But when you look at the second half, Limerick were better than us.”
After an extraordinary press conference following the most ordinary of hurling affairs, Fitzgerald returned to the Deise dressing room, knowing his team must improve next Saturday. After all, there’s a place in the Munster Final at stake.