While the majority of the 19,498 supporters and indeed the players needed a lie down after an exceedingly tense 90 minutes of action, in contrast the adrenaline was clearly still coursing through Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald’s veins when he greeted the waiting media outside the dressing rooms.
Having been juiced up on the combative tension of a see-saw battle of supremacy, the Sixmilebridge native was almost giddy as he excitedly contemplated two further meetings with Waterford to decide a large chunk of their competitive season.
“I can’t wait for the next two, I just can’t wait to go again. And I’m looking forward to it, great battles between two great teams and I really seriously can’t wait. That’s what hurling is all about. You want a man’s game outside there, you want it toe-to-toe and that’s what it was today.
“We’re delighted and fair play to Waterford too. We had to stand up at the end of normal time and Conor McGrath put over a free that was absolutely incredible and I’m so proud of him and what he did because everything was on the line for us and he did it. And fair play to Maurice Shanahan at the end, he did it when he had to do it and that just shows you what hurlers are about.
“Even from a hurling man, I just feel that it was a savage game of man-to-man, toe-to-toe, that’s the way I saw it, maybe ye saw it differently but that’s how I saw it.
“I felt it was a great game today, honest to God, as the two teams absolutely gave it 110 per cent. There were no sideshows, the most important thing was that both teams gave it everything. Us in Clare, we would have massive respect for Waterford and the way they handled themselves, they are an absolute credit as are my lads. So fair play to both.”
After such a taxing final, does he plan a week of rest and recuperation for his players?
“I think our clubs want them to play club games tomorrow so we’ll review that when we go in and see what the story is. Isn’t it great though? I don’t know how you felt in the stand but I can tell you that from the sideline it was pretty nerve-wracking stuff but you know what, that’s what you love, that’s what you love about the GAA. And if you don’t like that ebbing and flowing and a point in it here and there, you’re at nothing.
“We’re delighted to have an opportunity again and there’s two more games to come and bring them on, we can’t wait. We’re looking forward to them in Clare.
“It felt like championship out there and win, lose or draw, we’ll accept whatever comes. I’m just absolutely mad about the courage and determination that my team showed because we looked out of it once or twice. We went down three points playing with the breeze at the start of extra-time but we pulled it back to go a point up against the wind with time up. I thought we were there but in hindsight it was probably the right result.”
That championship white-heat was also felt on the sideline as tempers flared momentarily near the end of the opening half.
“Isn’t that great boy, what else do you want? Ye’d have nothing to write about if we didn’t have that. You didn’t say anything about shaking his hand afterwards. It’s all good and shur I’d be no good to ye if I wasn’t like that and I’m sure he’s the same.
“These things happen but you know, we love our counties and we’re there and we’re trying our best and that’s all we can do as we’re passionate. People said that we’d come out and try not to win the National League today. Did any of ye think that now? You saw that we both wanted to win it and It’ll be the same next week.
“I just think that today is fantastic for hurling and there’s more to come over the next five weeks.”
There certainly is, with Fitzgerald particularly pleased with how his patchwork side without injured duo John Conlon and David McInerney along with a host of recovering substitutes stepped up to the mark against the well-honed Waterford gameplan.
“I’m actually so proud of how my lads handled it today. Waterford weren’t throwing around as many passes as they normally were and I think we did a fairly unbelievable job. So the bookies might have it at evens the next day I’d say as there’s nothing between the two teams.
“It was 0-7 to 0-6 at half-time and I think that tells it’s own story. It was probably one of most tactical games I was ever involved in but we just really enjoyed it in Clare. We’d have enjoyed it more if we’d been on the right end of it by a point but I think it would have been unfair on any side to lose that and I mean that genuinely. They both deserved another crack at it.
“There were a lot of wides but that would come from it being so congested in the middle. There isn’t as much space as normal as that ’45 to ’45 was a war zone and that’s why there would have been so many wides as you’re trying to make them shoot from as far out as we can.
“It was about the game today, that’s what it was about and you can see I’m on a bit of a high and why wouldn’t you be after being involved in that. I’ve to wait for this thing [pointing at his heart] to come back down a small bit and I haven’t the healthiest one as it goes.”
So what about the replay? More tactics? More of the same doggedness?
“I’ll be very honest, I’ haven’t a clue what’s going to happen the next day as there were bodies all over the place. We changed our formation four times and I’m sure they did the same so it will be gas craic for the next day and I don’t know what’s going to happen.
“I’m just delighted that we’re playing again and if they want to play again the following week that’s fine with us too. We’re delighted to play Waterford another two times.
“We thought it might take us another few weeks to get to grips with it [Waterford’s gameplan] and I think we did okay. Normally Waterford throw the ball around for fun and have plenty of bodies but I thought they found it a bit harder today. Maybe coming towards the middle of the second half, they were finding a bit easier because we were a bit more tired so we’ll learn but I’m sure they’ll learn at the same time.
“There’s next week and then there’s four weeks after that again so If those games are anything like today, it’ll be great for ye but not so great for us with the ticker and that.”