Friday 22 March 2019

Players want Davy to remain at hurling helm

Davy Fitzgerald in Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday
Davy Fitzgerald in Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday

Brendan Furlong

Davy Fitzgerald has proved himself as a player and manager. Now with his Wexford future very much in mid-air, the burning question is: Can player power keep him at the helm of the Wexford Senior hurling team for 2019?

The performance was not good in the All-Irteland quarter-final defeat to his native Clare in Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday, but there was not a single dissenting voice between the closed door of the dressing-room in the aftermath of the seven-point defeat.

Fitzgerald's heart and soul is built around the game of hurling. He gave some 18 years to his native Clare, winning two All-Irelands as a player, and one as manager along with a National League, while also steering Waterford to an All-Ireland final, before taking over at the helm in Wexford last year just months after departing his native Clare.

As both players and management tried to come to terms with another quarter-final defeat, the dressing-room was a sombre place to be. But shortly after showering and trying to come to terms with the defeat, each player took it upon themselves to offer a consoling hug to their manager with the simple message, asking him to 'please stay for another year'.

'We were all absolutely gutted. That's what I want the Wexford supporters to know.

'Having seen the display, trying to take it on board, we simply never got into the flow of the game,' Fitzgerald said.

'Look, on my own future, the players have asked me to stay on. It's a long journey, a huge commitment, a six- to seven-hour round trip. It has not been easy but I will be taking everything on board.

'We have made lots of progress, but I'm not in a position to give an answer on my future.

'The players want me to stay but the answer is for another day,' he added.

The Wexford manager believed we created of our own downfall in so many different ways.

'We made errors. We made six or seven errors that presented them with scores. We missed scoring chances ourselves, with erratic shooting.

'We could and should have had a second goal. At this stage of the championship and this standard of hurling you cannot afford to give away so many scoring opportunities, while failing to take our own chances. You have to take your scoring opportunities at this standard of hurling.

'Taking all the scoring opportunities for both sides into account, we were not that far away. Clare showed an ability to take their scores which is in contrast to ourselves at the opposite end. Clare are not that much better than ourselves.'

On Wexford's failure to surmount the quarter-final hurdle, Fitzgerald has a theory on the defeat.

'I firmly believe the players put themselves under too much pressure. They failed to play with the freedom they are capable of.

'They are a good bunch of players, they have made progress over the last 18 months. You don't win All-Irelands in two years, given where other counties have taken themselves.

'We got out of Division 1B, got to a Leinster final, two league semi-finals, which was good for the county financially, retained our Division 1A status, defeated Dublin in the championship for the first time in many years, while we have beaten the top sides.

'This is a work in progress. I feel the players have made massive progress.

'They are capable of continuing this progress with a strengthening of the squad. Having managed this group of players, they are an excellent group, they are capable of progressing to the next level,' Fitzgerald added.

Right now there will be a valley period as the players return to their clubs for championship action this weekend.

The Davy factor will be the subject of much speculation over the coming weeks, but a wait of quite a few weeks is likely before any announcement regarding the manager's future will be made.

Wexford now look forward to the All-Ireland Under-21 hurling championship semi-final clash with Cork in Nowlan Park, Kilkenny, on August 4.

Enniscorthy Guardian