Monday 24 July 2017

Vincent Hogan: Fitzgerald's detractors need a spoonful of reality

Vincent Hogan

Vincent Hogan

Tumultuous news. Waterford hurling is undergoing an outbreak of rage against aesthetic vandalism. Fresh from the acquisition of only their ninth senior Munster title since Adam and Eve got frisky, moves are afoot to get rid of the county's hurling manager. Davy Fitzgerald, apparently, has the popularity factor of Donald Rumsfeld in a Kabul curio shop.

So what, you may ask, has become of that nice cup handed over in a Thurles downpour last July? Being used as a flower pot somewhere? Or gathering droplets from a leaking roof? Maybe it's still in the boot of someone's car.

No matter, it might as well be a Tupperware container now. Because Waterford have out-grown Munster. That was the unambiguous message of recent days as cyberspace fizzed with correspondence identifying a dramatic swing against Davy. Turns out the county's artistic wing is feeling short-changed.

One chap's letter to the 'Munster Express' last week accused Davy of all manner of stylistic crimes. He even suggested the Clare man to be incapable of the nurture and encouragement of young players (hot news I imagine around the campus of Limerick IT).

Better still, the letter advised Waterford to model any future decision-making process on "the approach of Limerick County Board". Obvious, isn't it? If you inherit a few bob, the smart thing to do is buy shares in your nearest bank. Particularly if you find the windows boarded up.

To be fair, this business isn't entirely an exercise in slack-jawed eccentricity.

One man tossing his name into the ring is Michael Ryan, a respected coach and formerly a Waterford selector under Justin McCarthy. Michael contacted this column on Friday to declare his interest in the job.


"Maybe it's time we had a Waterford man in charge again after 13 years of outsiders," he suggested.

We were a bit taken aback by the call. "So is Davy stepping down?" we asked.

"What Davy does is a matter for himself!" replied Michael.

Then there was Big Dan's departing jab as he slipped into retirement, complaining that the manager didn't start him in more games this summer, despite being rather inconspicuous in the one game that Davy did.

So let's edit down precisely what is happening here. Between league and championship, Waterford lost the same number of games this year as everybody's fragrant new darlings, Tipperary (three). Which means they lost one fewer than Kilkenny.

In Munster, they won the cup on the back of tactical intelligence that twice bewildered a Cork team that had previously demolished Tipp.

Trouble was, there wasn't enough sunshine in their hurling. They forgot to pack those triple two loops in their bags. Hence, a consensus brews that maybe some blood-letting might be healthy.

You see, Waterford would quite like the Liam McCarthy Cup, but they were an emphatic seven points adrift of Tipp when it came to the crunch in August. Never mind that the greatest team most of us have seen would be eight points off Liam Sheedy's boys one month later.

It's not about arithmetic, you see. It's about artistic integrity. Davy probably doesn't get that. He's been reared in a climate of winning things, not being everybody's favourite fall-guy. Damn it, he imposes tactics on free spirits and the civil-liberty types don't like that.

Perhaps a letter to the ombudsman might be appropriate.

If you ever doubted that managers are a friendless species, here lies definitive proof. Then again, was there not a glimpse of it at Brian Cody's post-All-Ireland final press conference?

"Is it the end of you?" he was asked eight days ago.

What kind of eccentricity tilts a mind towards that line of questioning? We had just seen a team's unprecedented run of 21 consecutive championship wins -- incorporating four consecutive All-Irelands -- come to a close and Cody was, essentially, being asked if he was a beaten docket.

Sheedy, too, will have encountered his share of enthusiastic grave-diggers in Tipp after that meltdown at Pairc Ui Chaoimh on May 30. And, of course, Pat Gilroy might as well have been wearing his underpants outside his trousers given the looks he encountered when Meath kicked five goals past Dublin on June 27.

Everybody wants the golden ticket, but nobody seems of a mind to take their place in the queue.

Davy may or may not continue with Waterford now. The county board may or may not revert to one of their own after 13 years of importing coaches. It could even be that they will take that rather odd advice of using Limerick's padded cell as a template for future business.

Whatever they choose, someone should track down the Munster cup and remove those golf balls, tea-bags, jelly beans or whatever it is that now sits within. And maybe give the thing a rub too.

It mightn't matter much to Waterford, but it'll make someone else very happy when the time comes to hand it back.

Irish Independent

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