Davy relishing new role
Wexford hurling manager cannot wait to get cracking
When Davy Fitzgerald decided to step down as Clare Senior hurling manager on September 21, he could hardly have envisaged that he'd be a more than interested spectator at Innovate Wexford Park for Sunday afternoon's Pettitt's championship final involving Oulart-The Ballagh and Cloughbawn.
But on the merry-go-round that is now inter-county management, Fitzgerald has hopped on in Wexford and will guide the fortunes of the Slaneysiders for the next three seasons, with a review planned after two years.
And so Fitzgerald made the round-trip of some 400km on Sunday, from Sixmilebridge to Wexford town and back again, to run the rule over some prospective panel members before he gets stuck into a real job of work ahead of the 2017 campaign.
The building blocks are in place and it's time for the Wexford hurlers to get back up on the scaffolding.
Standards have fallen since the high of 2014, the very year that Wexford dethroned Fitzgerald's Clare charges as All-Ireland champions, going on to beat Waterford before losing out to Limerick in the All-Ireland quarter-final.
'Being honest I did not expect this to happen,' Fitzgerald said on Sunday. 'I was on holidays when I stepped down from the Clare job. I had been asked by two or three interested parties but had agreed with my other half to take a break.
'Then along came contact from your County Chairman, Diarmuid (Devereux). I did a small bit of checking into Wexford, they had Under-21 success and did okay at Minor level, so there's a decent crop of young players coming through.
'The Chairman's enthusiasm was unreal when we spoke. I had promised herself that I would take time out, but before I had got home I had another telephone call from Diarmuid. His enthusiasm was infectious, something I could not get over. He has the same enthusiasm for hurling as myself, and that's what really got to me,' he explained.
'I went up to Portlaoise to meet Diarmuid and his committee. I got an unbelievable vibe from all of those present. It was unreal.
'The Chairman's focus was to get them back into the top six, get them back competing with the big boys. He wanted the county back in the shooting range as I would say. I did not expect this to happen but his enthusiasm for hurling and Wexford was unreal.'
Davy has assembled a backroom team that should be the envy of everyone in Wexford and outside.
'I have J.J. (Doyle) on board with another selector coming on board within the next few days. I will have two selectors/coaches with me from Clare along with the strength and conditioning coach, while I hope to have Waterford's Pádraic Fanning as team coach.
'Regarding the players, I know most of them from inter-county. I may not know all about club hurling but I intend to get to know it. I know the bones of Wexford Senior hurling but there's so much more for me to delve into.
'I will have 40 to 42 players initially, as it's my intention to give everyone a chance. The door is open for everyone. I look forward to meeting the players and getting down to work.
'I hope to have eight to nine games played before the league, giving everyone a chance, and reputations will mean nothing. I am starting with a clean slate and every player will be given an opportunity to prove themselves.
'A few players may have opted out this year, but we are going to look at everything, talk to those players, talk to players like Jack Guiney. One of the first calls I got on being appointed was from Liam Dunne.
'I really appreciated that. I appreciated the amount of work he did over the past five years. I want to acknowledge that.
'The door is open for every player. Everything starts afresh. Dedication and work ethic will be top of my list. This is massive and has always been part of my managerial portfolio. I will not be asking any of the players to do anything that I won't do myself. There is a good basis to work from, there is massive work ahead.'
On Wexford's style of hurling, Davy believes there's going to be tension in the stands and on the pitch as he tries to marry the two styles the county is trying to play at the moment.
'Wexford are playing the Kilkenny/Galway style, coupled with the Clare/Waterford style. I think they are very uptight about things trying to impose both styles on a game. It's going to be hard work over the coming months trying to marry the styles, trying to bring the players over, being able to jump from one style to another, being able to adopt on my call from the sideline.
'I would hope that the lads would go out, hurl for each other, hurl with passion, and see how we get on. The lads will be working with the various coaches so it will be an interesting few months ahead, a real learning curve for everyone.
'We will try out different styles in training, then try to marry the styles that are most suited. But any given style depends on the side you are coming up against. Like the other counties, we will have to play a brand of hurling that suits us.
'We can do it. We can play a brand of hurling that will see us impose ourselves on other teams. I already have ideas that I will be bringing to the training ground,' he added.
'We know what's ahead. I'd love to be able to tell you what we're going to win. We just know the battle that is ahead. Our first major competitive game is at home to Limerick in the league, and then away to Galway. They won't come much bigger.
'You don't know what is going to happen when you cross the white line. But we will be prepared, as the league is hugely important, even when it comes to the championship, as the past few years will show. We are looking no further than Limerick, that's the game we'll prepare for first.
'Looking ahead to the championship, I'm looking no further than the game with the team that emerges from the preliminary group. This is the sort of game we need to win, need to win convincingly.
'I will not allow Kilkenny enter the equation until that is out of the way. Each game will be prepared for separately. If that's right we'll match any of them. We'll give it a go.
'It's where you fight like never before. League and championship hurling is now like a cauldron out there, but we will be ready.
'Anybody who knows me well will know that I'm not coming down to Wexford to spend two years for the craic. I'm here to be competitive, no one will put more pressure on me than myself, while the backroom team will also put in huge work.
'We, in Clare, had tough days but we got over the line and got the big one. I cannot promise that but I will promise that we as a management team will work extremely hard, the players will work extremely hard. We will have a huge work ethic.
'We have a basis to start off with. The Limericks and Galways have done it at under-age level but it does not guarantee success. They still have not got the big one.'
Davy's final call to arms: 'be patient'.