Wexford were all smiles, but Kilkenny unhappy with way Walsh Cup final unfolded

John Knox

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John Knox

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Wexford were all smiles, but Kilkenny unhappy with way Walsh Cup final unfolded

Kilkenny manager Brian Cody was sent from the playing area

Kilkenny and Wexford are in for a hot, hot hurling sequence during 2018.
The Cats and the Slaneysiders produced a thrilling and keenly fought Walsh Cup final at Nowlan Park on Saturday, but it wasn’t all smiles and back slapping afterwards.
While Wexford were delighted to win their first Walsh Cup since 2002 and 16th in all, Kilkenny expressed disappointment at what went on when a home player was red carded and at how the free count broke down.
Kilkenny manager, Brian Cody, who was sent from the playing field and into the seating area in front of the stand during the third quarter, was in deadly serious mood afterwards.
The match ended level at 1-24 each after extra time and was then decided by five players from each side shooting 65s at the unmanned goal at the city end. Wexford won the shoot-out 3-2 to take the honours.
The free taking at the finish, what did you make of it, Cody was asked afterwards when he spoke to journalists?
“Very little to be honest,” came the terse reply. “I made very little of it. It is new, new. I am not going to start worrying about it one way or the other. It wasn’t particularly exciting.
“We drew the match up to the end of extra-time and then free taking decided the result. That was it.”
On Kilkenny’s display, he was more upbeat.
“I was very happy with the 98 minutes or so we played,” he insisted. “Our workrate was excellent. I thought we were very good.”
So where were Kilkenny now in relation to their team for the start of the National League?
“We have had a couple of games. We were looking at players. We were looking at a couple of more today. I was very happy with the display.”
This extended match should stand to Kilkenny next week against Cork in the League?
“Obviously it is different next week. That’s National League. This is Walsh Cup. They don’t compare. We go down to Cork to play Cork. Obviously it’s a huge challenge.”
Then the incident when he was put outside the playing area by the referee came up?
What went on, was he annoyed with the free count against Kilkenny?
He asked the journalists about the free counts they had, and then delivered Kilkenny’s count - 18-9 against at full time and 23-14 against at the end.
Unfair reflection
Was that an unfair reflection of things?
“It was. I wasn’t even aware of that. It was obvious the way it was happening, but I wasn’t even discussing anything like that,” he offered when he gave his view on the sending off.
“One of our players got sent off and I merely said to the linesman that he was being mauled and dragged, which he was, and then he said: ‘I’ll put you out of the field. I said: ‘You won’t put me out of the field’.
“Then he put up his flag and somebody else may have roared something. That’s as much as I said. That’s the way it went.”
Was he disappointed to end up down a man?
“Well, down a man in very horrible circumstances,” came the response. “The same thing happened last year in a game where a fella was sent off for supposedly pulling the helmet of a player which then they said later on he didn’t do at all.
“It’s very disappointing when a player starts roaring and bawling to the referee about his helmet and showing his helmet to everybody and a player is sent off completely in the wrong.”
When it was put to him that something like that happened to one of his players in the first half, he expressed no interest.
“I have no idea, but I wouldn’t be interested in roaring and shouting about it if it did,” he assured. “These things happen, fellas move their hands and helmets can get caught up. It’s been brought to a different level.”
Was he annoyed with what happened?
“No, like I said, I was very happy with how the team played.”
But with you being sent off?
“Not interested in discussing that at all.”
So, was this good preparation for the National League?
Great Game
“It was a great game,” he said. “Great, competitive game. Very, very happy with our display. It was very good. Very hard to play at this time of the year. A man down for the majority of the game and we stuck to it manfully.”
What did he make of the performance of Alan Murphy, who scored 1-13?
“His equalising free was a terrific score in these conditions, without a doubt yeah, it was a great score,” he offered.
End of interview.
All smiles
Wexford manager, Davy Fitzgerald was all smiles and full of cheer after extending the county’s winning sequence to 3-1 over Kilkenny since he took charge a little over 12 months ago.
“I don’t like winning the way we won,” he said of the way the match was decided. “At the end of the day Kilkenny didn’t lose the game. We didn’t lose the game. Okay, there were a few frees taken at the end and we ended up with the cup, but that wasn’t a loss for anyone.
“We both needed a good contest like this heading into the League. Winning or losing this final won’t count for much later in the season. We have to meet twice more this season, in the League and championship.
“We need to stay competitive,” he said of Wexford’s attitude. “We know what is coming from Kilkenny. We could see it today what is coming. They were very aggressive in the tackle in the first, and they hurled well.
“Let’s be honest, were it not for our goalkeeper in the first half we would have been down two goals at least. He made two or three unreal saves.
“Kilkenny could have been out of sight in the first half. Then in the second half we were a lot better. We are still progressing. I have always said it would take two or three years to progress, and that is still the case. We are not the finished article.”
The Wexford players won’t give up; they won’t give in, he insisted. That was one thing he was most proud of.
“That was a good game of hurling,” he said on reflection. “We have come from nowhere and to be able to compete with Kilkenny is massive. That is our ambition. In fairness, they set the bar. We have to be able to stay with them.”
He reminded that Wexford had been eight points down during the first half, but they were well in the game once they weathered the first 20 minutes.
“Looking at it you could say Wexford are in for a fair hiding today,” he said of the opening exchanges. “That’s how it looked, but we clawed our way back.”
And so Wexford’s target in the National League?
“Please survive, please survive,” he smiled. “The boys were telling me Paddy Power have us odds-on to be relegated so we just want to see if we can survive. We are under no illusions. Waterford’s pre-season form has been unreal.
“I know the matches they have played and they are on fire,” he continued. “They have everyone buzzing and were back training two weeks earlier than us. We know we are going to be up against it so it’ll be an interesting game next week.”
Kilkenny and Wexford will meet in Nowlan Park in the League on Sunday, March 4 and again in the Leinster championship at the same venue on Saturday, June 9.