Saturday 24 March 2018

Yesterday's game saw Davy Fitzgerald hit an incredible milestone in inter-county hurling

Will Slattery

Will Slattery

You only need to monitor Davy Fitzgerald's rabid sideline demeanor to get an insight into how much management means to the legendary hurler, but a startling statistic emphasises his longevity as well as his obsession with the sport as he starts his first season in charge of Wexford.

Fitzgerald only took a few weeks out of the game after leaving Clare at the end of last season before he was announced as the new Model County manager, with the former goalkeeper once again displaying his insatiable appetite for inter-county hurling.

His Wexford reign got off to a perfect - if facile - start in the Walsh Cup yesterday, with Fitzgerald's side walloping UCD by 5-31 to 1-8 for a huge 35-point win.

That comprehensive victory marks the beginning of Fitzgerald's 10th consecutive year as an inter-county manager, but as Colm Keys points out in today's Irish Independent, his involvement with top-level hurling stretches back far longer.

"This was the official beginning of an incredible 31st year of unbroken inter-county involvement for Fitzgerald," Keys writes.

"He was three years a Clare minor, graduated immediately on to the senior squad in 1990, took up management with Waterford weeks after quitting as a Clare player in 2008 and is now facing into a 10th year as manager. He’s only 45 but has scarcely allowed himself to draw breath."

Remarkably, Fitzgerald has spent 67% of his life involved in inter-county teams - any GAA fan under 30 won't remember a time when his imposing presence didn't dominate the hurling landscape.

Fitzgerald's latest role highlights his compulsion to be involved the sport more than any other - his commute from Sixmilebridge in Clare to Wexford training 3-4 nights a week will certainly test his dedication.

"Leaving at half-one in the day, getting home at one at night. It's a long day but it's grand, I'm happy enough," Fitzgerald tells Keys.

Mick O'Dwyer made his Kerry debut in 1956, before retiring after the National League in 1974, subsequently taking on the role of manager from 1975 until 1989, giving him an unbroken streak of inter-county involvement for 34 years.

Davy Fitzgerald's three-year term in Wexford will bring him to one year behind O'Dwyer, before the Clare legend will have to decide again whether he wants to go back on the road to continue one of sport's most remarkable streaks into a fifth decade.

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