Tuesday 28 March 2017

Davy Fitzgerald returns on weekend of big managerial pressures

Clare boss one of several managers under intense pressure as championships head for Croke Park

'Fitzgerald is expected to run the line as usual when Clare play Galway in Thurles tomorrow.' Photo: Sportsfile
'Fitzgerald is expected to run the line as usual when Clare play Galway in Thurles tomorrow.' Photo: Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

It has been a difficult week for Davy Fitzgerald, who underwent a minor heart procedure in Dublin on Wednesday, but he is not the only manager under stress in a crucial weekend for the All-Ireland hurling and football championships.

Fitzgerald is expected to run the line as usual when Clare play Galway in Thurles tomorrow (4.0).

All four managers involved in the hurling quarter-finals will be feeling the pressure for different reasons.

Read more: Clare boss Davy Fitzgerald undergoes minor heart surgery in Dublin  

There's a sense in Clare that they have under-achieved since winning the 2013 All-Ireland title, leaving them in need of a performance that not only takes them back to Croke Park next month but also fires out a warning to provincial champions, Kilkenny and Tipperary, that they are a re-energised force.

Galway manager Micheál Donoghue is in his first season, but having taken over a squad that reached two of the last four All-Ireland finals he is faced with very high expectations.

The pressure on the Galway players is even greater after revolting against the management last autumn, which led to Anthony Cunningham's departure.

Since then, they have been relegated to Division 1B of the Allianz League and lost to Kilkenny in the Leinster final, so unless they win tomorrow the season will have been a total write-off, leading to questions about the players rather than management.

Derek McGrath (Waterford) and Liam Dunne (Wexford) are also feeling the heat ahead of the first quarter-final (2.0).

Read more: Wexford on the rise but Waterford ready to resume normal service

The 21-point defeat by Tipperary in the Munster final was a devastating blow for Waterford after 18 months of consistent performances, leaving McGrath to re-boot the system under difficult circumstances.

Wexford are delighted to have reached the quarter-finals ahead of higher-ranked counties like Dublin, Cork and Limerick but it's still a pressurised situation for Dunne, who had to endure outbreaks of local sniping on different occasions this year.

At the very least, Wexford need to be very competitive, unlike two years ago when they lost a quarter-final heavily to Limerick after beating Clare and Waterford in the qualifiers.

Roscommon's joint-managers, Kevin McStay and Fergal O'Donnell are under the most intense scrutiny in today's football qualifiers where they take on Clare in Pearse Stadium (3.0).

Read more: 'Roscommon's style of play doesn't suit them at the moment' - Dolan

Roscommon's season started well when they won four of their first five Division 1 games but their form has dipped since then, reaching its lowest point last Sunday when they were well-beaten by Galway.

Now, they face a six-day turnaround, which has scuppered most beaten provincial finalists since the new championship was introduced in 2001.

A Clare win would see them reach the All-Ireland quarter final for the first time. It's Derry v Tipperary in the other football qualifier in Kingspan Breffni Park (5.0). Like Clare, Tipperary are bidding to reach the quarter-final for the first time.

Both qualifiers will be shown on Sky Sports while RTE will screen tomorrow's hurling quarter-finals.

Irish Independent

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