Tuesday 20 August 2019

'Whether I can do it again, I don't know' - Davy Fitzgerald casts doubt on future as Wexford boss blasts critics

 

Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald, left, is consoled by Rory O'Connor
Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald, left, is consoled by Rory O'Connor
'There was, Fitzgerald agreed, no simple answer as to why Wexford hadn't got over the line.' Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

The small auditorium under the Hogan Stand where the post-match interviews take place is a most clinical environment.

The set-up in the room, most likely on purpose, leaves a distance between the assembled media and the interviewee.

It often makes for cold exchanges and empty interactions.

Davy Fitzgerald press conferences are different. The room crackled with the energy of his emotion. Three times he stopped to compose himself. Twice he paid tribute to Tipperary and once he took the chance to take aim at detractors of Wexford's sweeper system.

"People talk to me about the sweeper system being negative, it's time to get down off their high horses and just look at hurling and stop being so negative," said the Clare native.

"It drives me nuts. People talking about stuff they haven't a clue about. If you call Wexford negative then I don't know because we were getting attackers, we were getting players all over the place. We scored three (goals), we could have scored six, we were there. We were right there.

"And to me, talk about hurling? That's the right way to play hurling, not get it between two people and beat the lard out of each other. Play the game short and long, play it cross then be manful as well, people need to stop and have a look and let teams do their thing and stop being on their back.

"I'm so proud of our crowd and I'm so proud of our supporters as well. They never got on our back, they never got on our back, they stayed with us and I'm wicked proud of them and the way they conducted themselves."

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There was, Fitzgerald agreed, no simple answer as to why Wexford hadn't got over the line. To a man they had delivered. Their first eight points came from eight different scorers. Late in the day they were in charge. Five points up against 14 men, Wexford looked to have one foot in the final.

From there however, their strides towards Mecca shortened and Tipp's cold fingers got a hold of the game at a stage that meant the Leinster champions had no time to recover.

Fitzgerald agreed too that they looked out on their feet down the home straight while instead of working in their favour, John McGrath's sending-off saw a tactical switch in the game that wasn't to Wexford's suiting.

"We looked a small bit leggy yeah. A bit at the end. I think it's more that the momentum shifted unreal. When momentum happens like that, it's very hard to stop it. Tipp just got it at the right time. And fair play to them.

"I just knew it in the last minute or two or three that they were finding their scores that bit easier. They were coming out with the 50-50 balls at the back a bit easier. It wasn't happening for a lot of the game.

"We did enough of stuff to nearly get over the line, I just feel the sending off, you'd think it would work for you, it actually didn't. It allowed Tipp more space and they got to avoid our sweeper a good bit, they played smart.

"I feel our half-forward line retreated too deep. I was trying to get them out to midfield so we could stay running the ball. When we ran the ball there was only one winner in that game and it was just very hard to keep doing it. And whether it got into the boys' heads that when we had the lad sent off they just went a bit too direct, a small bit too direct for my liking.

"I think when we worked it short we were incredible through the line, but in saying that you have to admire Tipperary's resilience, they never gave up and fair play to them, that's what hurling is about. My hat is off to them even though I'm absolutely so disappointed."

All that was left to pay tribute to was his own team. The near three-hour trip from Clare will once again call into question whether he'll go for a fourth season.

"I've been over teams a long time. The bond I have with this crew, I don't think I've had it with any team. You're happy when you're around them. Going to training is actually really good.

Friends

"You do two hours 45 minutes from Clare and it isn't an easy thing 120 times a year. They're an unbelievable bunch. I really, really enjoy them and no matter what happens in Wexford I think I'll be friends with these guys for a long time to come."

Fitzgerald is in his 30th consecutive year of involvement with inter-county hurling between playing and managing. Whether he'll be back for a 31st with Wexford remains to be seen.

"I'll tell you, how devastated I feel now, it's unreal. I really believed coming today that we'd be in an All-Ireland final. I don't fear any of the teams in Ireland at this stage," he reflected. "Whether I can do it again, I don't know. I don't want to think about it for a while. I think I just need to stop. It's been 18 years playing and 12 or 13 with no breather."

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