Saturday 24 February 2018

Martin Breheny: Davy must take consequences but we shouldn't be swept along by vindictive effort to hang him


Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald and Tipp's Jason Forde tangle in Nowlan Park on Sunday Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald and Tipp's Jason Forde tangle in Nowlan Park on Sunday Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

It wasn't exactly a killer line from the ultimate guide to best-ever defences but it sounded genuine enough all the same.

"I won't do it again," concluded Davy Fitzgerald when explaining why he had galloped on to the pitch in Nowlan Park last Sunday after Tipperary had scored their second goal, which, incidentally, should never have stood because Wexford defender James Breen was fouled in the build-up.

Fitzgerald also stated that his intrusion was designed to "lift my lads a small bit". He felt it achieved its aim, prompting a strong reaction at a time when Tipperary had steamed six points ahead.

"As it worked out, it didn't do any harm," he said.

That may not be strictly true since his admission won't have gone down well with the disciplinary beaks. Fitzgerald knew that galloping onto the pitch was going to get him into trouble but he judged it a risk worth taking. There was an Allianz League semi-final to be won and he would pull any trick to help the Wexford cause.

Of course he was wrong to do it. He broke rules and would have known quickly that consequences lay ahead. What he might not have expected was the ferocity of some of the comments since then, many from former players operating in pundit country.

Now, it's pretty obvious that in what has become a competitive and lucrative environment, some former players are prepared to say just about anything in a bid to promote their particular brand of 'calling it as it is'.

It's a commercial judgement, calculated on the basis that the more outrageous the comments, the higher their value.

Fitzgerald provides rich pickings for the new market, either through his comments or, as happened last Sunday, an ill-judged sortie onto the pitch, which inevitably led to a clash with Tipperary players.

He must take the consequences but, while the process is ongoing, we shouldn't all be swept along by what appears to be a vindictive effort to hang him.

Disciplinary bodies are never swayed by that sort of thing, which is just as well for Fitzgerald.

Yes, he was out of order but, for God's sake, don't overplay the incident for something it wasn't. Chopping down on the hand, which is quite common, is far more serious, yet how often do we see it highlighted on TV re-runs?

The same goes for head-high tackles and deliberate body-checks, yet they don't attract anything like the same attention. But then it's far easier to come across all upstanding and sanctimonious when talking in grave tones about someone like Fitzgerald, even if he has done more to promote hurling than any promotional campaign.

And while that in no way allows him leeway when it comes to the rules, it should at least be recognised.

I arrived in Kilkenny more than three hours before throw-in last Sunday, only to find that many Wexford people were already there, their cars parked way outside the city as they happily walked towards Nowlan Park. They formed the majority of the 19,095 attendance - more than twice the turnout for the Limerick-Galway semi-final in the Gaelic Grounds - and were there because the mood in the county is more upbeat than for a long time.

Liam Dunne did a lot more work than he got credit for over the last few years and, when he left, Fitzgerald was the ideal man to build on the foundations.

And despite being overwhelmed in the final stages last Sunday, Wexford has made huge progress so far this year, with promotion to 1A a really substantial prize, the benefit of which will extend into next season.

Obviously, Fitzgerald's role in Wexford's surge grants him no immunity from punishment if he steps out of line but, on the broader scale, he deserves great credit for helping to bring added excitement at a time when so many managers and players - in both hurling and football - appear to have locked away their personalities, presumably only to be retrieved when they retire.

Irish Independent

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