DAVY FITZGERALD appears on the verge of completing a remarkable return to Waterford, 11 years after stepping down from the Deise’s hurling hotseat.
The Waterford GAA executive will meet on Thursday evening at 7pm, followed by a full county board meeting in Dungarvan at 7.30, with the appointment of a managerial successor to Liam Cahill high on the agenda.
And just one name has been at the forefront of feverish speculation over the past couple of days, with the ubiquitous Clareman touted for a second coming with the county he first managed at senior level.
Waterford officials have maintained a stony silence, however, and it will only become clear later this evening if all the rumours are on the money.
Fitzgerald himself may have reason to tread cautiously, given his own experiences last autumn when Henry Shefflin emerged from leftfield to be named as Galway manager, contrary to earlier reports that had all but installed Davy Fitz in the role.
A four-man committee comprising county board chairman Sean Michael O'Regan, secretary Pat Flynn, CEO of Nemeton TV Irial Mac Murchú and former Waterford captain Fergal Hartley has been tasked with the job of recommending a replacement for Cahill, who departed last month and was rapidly installed as new boss of his native Tipperary.
Fitzgerald won two All-Ireland senior medals as a goalkeeper with Clare in the ‘90s but has gone on to achieve even more fame – and sometimes notoriety – as one of the most colourful yet enduringly successful managers in the sport.
Presuming he is the chosen candidate, it will mean the 51-year-old has come full circle, having launched his senior managerial career with Waterford in June 2008. Not long out of retirement that summer, he stepped in to fill the void after a player coup against Justin McCarthy, and subsequently steered them to that year’s All-Ireland final – the county’s first in 45 years.
Despite enduring a crushing humiliation to Kilkenny that September, the Clare native stayed in charge for a further three seasons and he remains the last manager to lead Waterford to a Munster title, in 2010.
He stepped down in 2011 and duly took over Clare for the next five seasons. Another eventful reign yielded Liam MacCarthy glory for the Banner in 2013 and then in 2016, his final campaign, a first league title in 38 years. There followed a further five-year stint with Wexford, the high point coming in his third campaign when the Slaneysiders won their first Leinster title in 15 years.
However, Wexford struggled to replicate that 2019 peak during the following two Covid-disrupted years and Fitzgerald stepped down after the 2021 championship.
Despite widespread speculation at one point that he was poised to become Galway manager, the Tribesmen opted for Shefflin instead and that signalled the end of 35 consecutive years of inter-county involvement, as a player or manager – only for Fitzgerald to switch codes and become coach to this year’s Cork camogie team under their new boss, Matthew Twomey.
Fitzgerald stepped down in the immediate aftermath of Cork’s All-Ireland final defeat to Kilkenny last Sunday, immediately fuelling speculation about an imminent return to the men’s game.