independent

Friday 13 December 2019

Davy back for two years

As we predicted four weeks ago, Fitzy has returned

Wexford Senior Hurling manager Davy Fitzgerald patrolling the Croke Park sideline against Tipperary
Wexford Senior Hurling manager Davy Fitzgerald patrolling the Croke Park sideline against Tipperary
The story on this supplement’s front page on September 3

Brendan Furlong

As we predicted in our September 3 edition, Davy Fitzgerald has returned as Wexford Senior hurling manager for a fourth successive year.

Those of us with an emotional interest in Wexford G.A.A. were left sweating ever since the All-Ireland semi-final loss to Tipperary, particularly when Fitzgerald announced to the County Chairman, Derek Kent, that he would not be seeking a further term at the helm.

This remained an issue over the following weeks as the Clare native, who has steered Wexford back as a real hurling force, remained silent until recently.

He then cited the distance to Wexford from his native county, and some underlying health issues, as real stumbling blocks in arriving at a decision as to whether he could continue at the helm of Model county hurling.

The issue remained up in the air until we broke the news four weeks ago that Fitzgerald was on the verge of announcing his return to the fold, while at the same time stipulating he would be coming back for a two-year term.

But it didn't stop there, for our revelation clearly annoyed County Board officers, who had their thunder stolen, an issue that is dealt with in more detail in the 'Hop Ball' column inside.

Fitzgerald, on deciding to remain at the helm, is now determined to put all those issues behind him - the distance, the demands of such a journey, and other related matters - as he is already preparing for 2020.

'It was very tough getting to this position. It was not straightforward, but right now I'm determined to put all that behind me,' he said.

'I am now looking forward and going to get on with it. I am going to forget about the journey and what it entails, as for now I'm looking forward. Already I have been considering plans and ideas for preparation once we return to training,' he added.

'We have the Fenway Classic coming up in November. I have yet to decide on any training for that, but we will be treating it seriously.

'The players will be ready while we will also have it as a bonding break for the squad. We'll soon bring our ideas together for that trip,' he said.

The most reassuring aspect to emerge from all those weeks of wait is that Fitzgerald is back at the helm, which ensures that continuity will prevail in Wexford hurling. This is crucial to building on a highly successful league and championship campaign.

On his announcement, Fitzgerald insisted that the delay in committing to a further two years with the Leinster champions was simply down to logistics, which he is now putting behind him.

He stressed that it had nothing to do with any other county, despite rumours of an imminent switch to Galway, which would have entailed less than an hour's journey.

Fitzgerald was categorical in his insistence that he never spoke to another County Board, and was simply weighing up the physical demands of managing a Wexford team so far from his home base of Sixmilebridge - whom he guided to the Clare county final in his role as coach last weekend.

'This was never about a choice between Wexford and another county. It would have broken my heart to walk away from these Wexford players and, in the end, I just couldn't do that.

'The problem I've always had is that the journey to Wexford is an absolute killer. I was going to give up after two years, only the players came to my house, appealing for me to give it another year.'

The journey has long been a concern to Fitzgerald's family and friends in light of well flagged health issues that involved him having to undergo a coronary procedure, but it was his underlying bond with the Wexford players that won out in the end.

Fitzgerald's managerial CV is one of the most impressive in the country, having won an All-Ireland with his native county in 2013 and a National League in 2016, as well as a Munster title with Waterford in 2010.

He also guided our neighbours to their first All-Ireland final in 45 years after Justin McCarthy's sudden resignation in 2008. He also coached Limerick I.T. to a first Fitzgibbon Cup win in 2005.

And on Wednesday night last, following a meeting in Clonmel, Fitzgerald announced close to 8 p.m. that a deal had been arrived at and he was staying with Wexford.

'Bottom line, if Wexford was within an hour of me, this wouldn't even have been up for debate. My immediate instinct following the Tipperary game was to step down. I told the County Chairman as much but was asked to take time out to consider a decision,' he explained.

'The problem I've had the whole time is the journey which is an absolute killer. To be fair, Wexford have done absolutely everything they could to help me in this regard.

'Myself and Sharon (wife) had a talk about whether it was feasible to continue. I also spoke at length with my parents. Sharon knows full well what the players mean to me, but it involves leaving home at two in the day and getting back at half twelve or one in the morning.

'It's just a very tough thing to keep doing and I suppose I have a few health issues which worry me a small bit, especially with being on the road that long.

'But this is an incredible group of people that have given absolutely everything that I've asked of them. I love the bones of them and, honestly, it would have broken my heart to walk away.

'They're the reason I'm staying. I just don't think our story together is about to end yet.

'I cannot stress enough that it was never a choice of Wexford or another team. If it was a choice of Wexford or another team it was always Wexford. There's no doubt about that. This was about committing to the travel again,' he added.

Asked if he had contact from any other County Board, Fitzgerald remained unequivocal.

'Categorically not. I can say one hundred per cent that I have not been talking to another County Board. I took a few calls from different people but all I said to anyone was that I had only one decision to make.

'And that was whether or not I'd go back to Wexford. Only when I made that decision would I think about crossing the next bridge, whatever that would be.

'I'm glad that I've now made the decision, and hopefully we can now build together. Trust me, we'll be doing our damnedest to have a good 2020,' he concluded.

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