'This is a special group of players who I love from the bottom of my heart' - Davy Fitzgerald leads emotional homecoming
Davy Fitzgerald will be back in full swing in his native Clare tomorrow as one of the headline acts in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open pro-am at Lahinch, but he promised the Wexford faithful last night that he and his charges still have unfinished business.
Speaking to the several thousand fans who gathered in Innovate Wexford Park for the homecoming, Fitzgerald said: "This is a special group of players who I love from the bottom of my heart.
"You don't realise what they have been through. For three years these guys had trained four and five nights a week. People said I was mad to come here, but I always knew Wexford was a hurling-mad county.
"They tried to keep Wexford down long enough, but those days are over. I promise you we will be back training this week. I also promise you we will play our hearts out and we'll not let you down."
Before they return to training on Thursday, the five-handicap Wexford boss will be hoping his golf game is on song when he joins former Westlife star Brian McFadden (9 handicap) and ex-Boyzone idol Keith Duffy (11) on the seventh tee for tomorrow's 7.45am shotgun start.
Fitzgerald, who has competed in the South of Ireland at Lahinch, will tee off with 2012 champion Jamie Donaldson from Wales in a curtain-raising pro-am for what is likely to be a sell-out Irish Open.
Tickets for Thursday and Friday are going fast and the weekend is almost a full house, with 25,000 to 30,000 fans expected to arrive each day.
Shane Lowry will show hurlers Cian Lynch (28) of Limerick, Shane O'Donnell (18) of Clare and Galway's Joe Canning (9) the way it's done from the first tee, while Kieran Donaghy and Tomás Ó Sé are other GAA stars in action.
The afternoon shotgun start features actor Jimmy Nesbitt (16), impressionist Conor Moore (18) and singer Niall Horan (10) from the second. Ruby Walsh (18) goes off the 16th with 2008 Masters champion Trevor Immelman, while on the 18th tee Andrew 'Beef' Johnston partners rugby legends Paul O'Connell (11), Keith Wood (5) and Shane Byrne (13).