Frank Roche: 'Davy Fitz rarely vents his annoyance at Brian Cody - but he would love to end Kilkenny's season'
THE last time Davy Fitzgerald enjoyed championship bragging rights over Brian Cody was also the first time it happened.
It was June 2017, one of those rare occasions when Davy Fitz was literally put in his box - a customised, tinted-glass booth within the Innovate Wexford Park press box, to house the then-suspended Model manager.
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Whatever about the man himself, his ebullient team could not be contained. They scalped the Cats in SHC combat for the first time in 13 years.
It was also a summer first for Davy. Three times as Waterford boss, he had lost to Cody in Croker battle, most painfully in the 2008 All-Ireland massacre. In his five years with Clare, their championship paths had never crossed.
Now Fitzgerald is plotting a reprise of 2017 at the same venue on Saturday. The stakes could not be higher: Wexford need the Leinster SHC round-robin points to guarantee progress.
Moreover, in the event of a simultaneous Dublin victory over Galway, a Wexford win would KO the Cats from Liam MacCarthy. Think of it: Kilkenny gone by mid-June.
Davy Fitz has never inflicted the final, fatal blow to a Cody championship team. He’d never say it publicly about a manager he seldom tires of praising, but you can be sure he would relish the prospect.
After Saturday’s win over Carlow, he warned: "We’ve played them twice this year and we’ve beaten them - he (Cody) won’t like that. I know what he’s like. He’ll want to come back and give it to us . . . they’re coming full throttle for us."
He was speaking before Kilkenny lost to Galway. All of which should ensure that Cody’s wounded troops are in full throttle mood, mechanically propelled or otherwise.
Once upon a late noughties time, when Yellow-Bellies had a lot more yellow on their jerseys and black-and-amber was a metaphor for merciless destruction, there would be zero pre-match intrigue about a championship showdown between these old neighbouring foes. But things are different now.
Maybe it started with Fitzgerald’s arrival in the south-east. In his first league campaign, he masterminded a quarter-final victory in Nowlan Park. A couple of months later came that richly deserved Leinster semi-final triumph, The Boys are Back in Town blaring from the PA system in an exultant Wexford Park.
Last year saw a restoration of the old order: three Kilkenny wins, in the league (by three), a league semi-final (by nine) and a round-robin finale (by one). The latter materialised in gripping fashion: Wexford led by nine early in the second half but, playing their fourth game in consecutive weeks, they ran out of gas.
"I think I’m wasting my time in this job. I’m not going to say why," fumed Fitzgerald, who duly offered a clue, adding: "There’s frees given in one half and they’re not given as easy in the second half and that’s a fact. I love the way Kilkenny play but we’re wasting our time if it’s not 100 per cent across the board."
Very rarely will he vent his annoyance at Cody. He did so in the wake of last year’s feisty Walsh Cup final, won by Wexford in a free-taking shoot-out.
A Kilkenny player had been sent off for alleged helmet interference, Cody too was sent to the stand for his protestations and he later complained of a Wexford player "roaring and bawling to the referee about his helmet."
Fitzy’s riposte? "I am just very surprised at Brian’s attitude afterwards, very surprised."
Any chance of a raging repeat? Watch this space.