Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald’s parting analysis to the large media contingent that his side ‘have a lot of work done and a lot to do’ probably best summed up Clare’s current plight.
The huge workload, commitment and development of the side could be easily outlined in what was Clare’s best championship display in four years but in the end, the slender contrast of fortune, guile and decision making was the ultimate difference in a game that could have swung either way.
“We conceded a sloppy goal or two but I don’t think you could say that Waterford were better than Clare, I think it was 50/50 out there and we could have got over the line.
“I thought we were a small bit nervous starting off and let them have a six point lead, probably gave up a sloppy second goal and it was hard to come back from that but I thought the lads fought until the very end. We got a few free chances that probably we should have taken but full credit to Waterford, they stood tough and they got the result at the end of it.
“There’s no ill feeling here and I know people were saying to me about penalty claims and this and that but we are not going to go down that road. We probably had enough of chances in the game to win it and we didn’t win it.
“We had a ’65, a free inside 50 yards and that free at the very end so if we had got two of them, we would have drawn and got three of them we would have won. Then Darach [Honan] was just on and ball fell out of his hand and it was very hard because he’s after a lot of time out and is only back a few weeks.
“But that’s the way things go”
While the manner of the narrow defeat was a difficult pill to swallow, Fitzgerald stood firmly behind his players who now have to take the backdoor route for the fourth successive season.
“It was a tough game and I just thought that the two goals were a killer touch to us but we showed good character and came back well after that.
“I’d be very proud. Like, did we give ourselves a chance to win the game? We did and could have won. No one here would have argued if we had won the game so I think we are there or thereabouts. There is a lot of experience in Waterford but we stood up to it fairly okay.
“Listen, today mightn’t be our day and the next day mightn’t be either, I don’t know but I’ll tell you one thing, we’ll keep trying and I know them lads won’t give up too easy.
“We’d rather be in a Munster Final a hundred times over the qualifiers and throw them in and see what happens. I don’t like the qualifier route but we have no choice now only to do it and we’ll do it.”
The conversation inevitably turned towards Waterford’s overenthusiastic celebrations led by his former Waterford stalwarts John Mullane and Eoin Kelly but again, Fitzgerald wasn’t about to react impulsively.
“I think John Mullane was told something that wasn’t true, that’s just the way it was but listen, I have no problem whatsoever and let me say this one hundred per cent on the record. ‘John Mullane is one the best players I have ever seen and John Mullane has another two or three years in him big time if he wants.’
“I have no problem with him but sometimes people tell players things to get them riled up so that they will perform in a game. I know in my own heart of hearts that I have a lot of respect for those guys inside there [Waterford dressing room] and I can straight out say that none of that stuff came from me.
“They’ll have a say in this championship before it’s over but don’t write off Clare.
“We’ll build away. We have a lot of work done and a lot to do but anyone who knows my style knows that I won’t be throwing in the towel too easy.”
You can take that as read.
Clare full-forward John Conlon is met by two Waterford defenders as he tries to break through on goal.