Despite securing their place in the quarter-finals a week earlier, making a host of changes and even going down to 14 men, Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald was never about to go down without a fight.
“I suppose every game you play, you want to win and do your best and there was six or seven new lads on there today and they wanted to say ‘I’m here, I want to play for Clare’. I think the new lads acquitted themselves very well and even one or two lads that we left off acquitted themselves pretty well as well today so that’s not bad from that perspective.
“We battled very well. We made one or two mistakes at the back and gave them a few chances. And it wasn’t that Galway created them, we gave them up, we made mistakes that we can’t make at the back and we have to try and rectify that. But the fighting quality out there I thought was tremendous. When you’re down a man, I thought we showed great heart.”
That spirit and determination has been evident throughout the five game league campaign as Clare finished top of the pile despite admitting to be behind in their preparations.
“The character the boys have shown I think has been unreal. They have dug deep so they have and they have amazed me because I know we are not as fit as we should be. We are not there yet, we’re still a few weeks away but we are definitely making progress in that direction. I suppose they have awful pride in them, they see themselves as All-Ireland champions and they want to try their best to perform as well as they can every day.
“And I’m still certain of this, we are going to have a day here or there that won’t be pure magic but we will have more good days than bad with this team so we will. I’m delighted with the attitude they showed today, I’m really happy with that.
“They are definitely progressing but I think a big thing that helped today was that today was our third week out in a row and I think making the seven changes was a big risk because we knew they [Galway] were coming here with all guns blazing. So to make the seven changes meant that half our team was changed in order to give lads a go and their enthusiasm was probably way up more than some of the lads I left off.
“You look at Tony Kelly today, probably the best I’ve seen him playing since the All-Ireland and I think by leaving him off off the last few weeks did him no harm as he’s starting to get a bit of a buzz back. So we just have to be careful with different players, maybe giving them a bit of a break here and there.”
The dismissal of Shane Golden just before half-time proved to be a pivotal moment in the game but Fitzgerald wasn’t about to question the referee’s decision.
“I didn’t get a right view of it but I asked Diarmuid [Kirwan, referee] what the story was and he told me what the story was so I accept what he says and overall today, I thought he was fair. And the most important thing you can ask of a referee is to be fair enough. It’s hard when you do go down to 14 men, trust me that’s a killer. The gameplan we were playing goes out the door and you’ve to change completely in midstream but I thought he was balanced.
“I’d just love for the authorities to not look at dishing out so many cards as they are mad to do and let the game flow as much as possible, that would be my feeling on it. I though he [referee] did very well today, I thought he was fair and balanced and we are not going to say a thing about the sending off. If he [Shane Golden] pulled like Diarmuid said he saw, I accept that.”
Clare will also have to accept a trip to O’Moore Park in Portlaoise this Sunday (3.30pm) for a quarter-final meeting with Laois, a prospect that doesn’t entirely appeal to the All-Ireland winning manager.
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