‘If there’s more stick to come, I’ll take it. I’m used to that for years’
DAVY Fitzgerald has launched a passionate defence of his record in charge of the Waterford hurlers and insisted that the 2010 season was an "unbelievable" one for the Déise.
In a wide-ranging interview with a local radio station, Fitzgerald responded to accusations that have been levelled against him since the All-Ireland semi-final defeat against Tipperary.
Fitzgerald's team captured the Waterford Crystal Cup and won the Munster title but the former Clare goalkeeper still ended the season with heavy criticism ringing in his ears.
Fitzgerald explained the tactics used against Tipperary at Croke Park and his decision to substitute sharpshooter Eoin Kelly in that semi-final, and he also lifted the lid on his relationship with veteran stars Dan Shanahan and Ken McGrath.
Fitzgerald admitted that he may "get a slating" from Shanahan in the retired star's forthcoming autobiography, having already received criticism from the Lismore man.
But Fitzgerald insisted that anything in Shanahan's book, or material contained in RTE reporter Damien Tiernan's account of Waterford hurling over the last 10 years, will not bother him.
"I hope he (Shanahan) makes a good lot out of it," said Fitzgerald. "He had some good times and bad times. I'll probably get a slating in it. If I do, I do and that's it. I'm not going to worry about it too much.
"Whatever is in them, there's nothing I can do about it now.
"Did (the criticism) hurt a small bit? I suppose it did but at the same time, there's not a hope in hell that I'm going to say a bad thing about Dan and Ken, no matter what they say about me.
"These guys have been incredible for Waterford. The one thing I keep saying to myself is that it must be so hard for these guys to sit on the sideline.
"You're the main man for so long and it must be just very hard. They're entitled to their points of view... maybe in a few years' time, when they go managing, they might see things in a different light.
"Do I have a grudge because of what the lads say? No -- remember these guys for what they have done. If there's more stick to come, I'll take it. I'm used to that for years."
Fitzgerald also denied that there has ever been a problem with communication within the squad, insisting that his door is always open if players want to discuss any issues, and saying that he is ready to take any criticism players may have of him.
He has received public backing from key players like captain Stephen Molumphy and corner-back Noel Connors, but he admitted he does not expect to please every member of the panel.
"Am I going to keep 32 people happy? Not a hope. They could bring Brian Cody or Liam Sheedy down to Waterford and he won't keep them all happy either," he said.
"That's the nature of it. You get criticism, it's not nice but you have to accept it. But I'd love people to have come into our camp because it's a very happy camp, a good camp. I would not have come back otherwise."
Fitzgerald also hinted that county board officials need to loosen the purse strings and stated that expenditure on the hurling team is well behind the likes of Kilkenny, Tipperary or his native Clare, saying: "Waterford's team is easily below any of the rest of them on spending."
He went on to defend his recent record, insisting: "The season that we've had is unbelievable. The highlight for me would have to be the Munster final.
"To beat Cork at any stage is great but to beat them in the Munster final, in the circumstances we did, is fantastic.
"With the semi-final, to say we were disappointed was an understatement. Did we expect to win it? We did, we went out to win it. Have we examined it? In detail, we've gone over different things.
"You'd be told that the tactics went wrong and this went wrong. I don't believe we stuck to the tactical game that we had in the Munster final.
"I believe certain fellas went back to their own thing but could I say anything against the lads? No, I wouldn't say one thing against the team. These lads worked so hard and battled so hard.
"Some of them were so used to playing in a certain way for so long and had to adapt to a different way of playing.
"We didn't play well in the semi-final; we gave up too much space in the middle and didn't stick tactically to what we should have done.
"If you play open hurling on these days, and leave everything open, that would not be good for us. But any day we can play and score 19 or 20 scores and defend really well, we have a great chance of winning.
"We were told that we were tactically negative. Here are a few facts: in the Waterford Crystal we played a total of four games and scored 5-65.
"We were highest scorers in the league, and played without many of our senior players in that, including John Mullane.
"In the championship, we scored 4-70 -- if someone can tell me that's a negative brand of hurling (I'd be surprised).
"The game has evolved in the last two or three years, to be about unbelievable work ethic. That's where we're at.
"I'd be very happy with our style of hurling. I think we're playing lovely, good, attractive hurling. We score some great scores and we try to play to our strengths.
"I can't promise that we're going to win Munster again or win an All-Ireland but I can promise that we will work extremely hard as a team and a back-room team.
"I might have made one or two mistakes in my back-room team last year but I have that rectified for the year coming.
"What we need in Waterford are genuine people who care about the team, the management and will work hard for Waterford."
Fitzgerald also defended the presence of former boxing world champion Bernard Dunne -- a Dubliner -- in the Waterford set-up.
"It's not about Davy Fitzgerald being manager, it's about people around me getting the best we can out of the team," he said.
"I don't mind who it is as long as they can help. People were asking about Bernard Dunne, why's he going down, is he getting a rake of money for going down?
"The reason I had Bernard Dunne down is that he's a good friend of mine, but he epitomised to me a fella who fought with his heart and soul and never gave up.
"He got a bad knock, came back and won a world title. He was there as support -- he never asked for a cent."
Fitzgerald also revealed that he has received the all-clear from specialists who have reviewed the heart condition that led to him undergoing surgery in September 2009.
"I was back up in early September with Dr Mulvihill," he said. "He told me last year that I was nuts to be doing what I was doing but hurling is in my blood since I was so young."