Praising his Wexford charges, before heaping offering a firm thumbs up to both Derek McGrath and his Deisemen, Fitzgerald was having no truck with the assessments being proffered by both Henry Shefflin and Michael Duignan in the wake of Sunday’s Quarter-Final. “I think Michael Duignan and Henry have had a go. Let me say this straight out: Michael Duignan and Henry have never managed any team at a high level: the people need to wake up, so they do,” he said in response to Vincent Hogan’s question.
“If they want the same one or two teams to play hurling and be successful, that’s fine. Myself and Derek are trying to bring teams to the fore that haven’t been to the fore in a long time and I’m very strong about this. It’s great for the likes of Michael Duignan – he should have had an opinion on something recently and he didn’t have it – when he should have stood up. It’s time now Michael Duignan stopped this messing; the (good) job Derek McGrath has done and the stick he has taken is totally unwarranted. What he has done for Waterford and bringing them back up to the top is incredible and I am backing him one hundred and ten per cent. You’re telling me that’s a bad game of hurling after some of the scores, short and long ball, every sort of ball, or do we just play the long ball and hit and that’s it? I don’t agree with that and I think that they are totally out of order; I think RTE should go have a look at themselves and get analysts who have been on the sideline and who know what the story is about, and that’s how I feel strongly about. It’s easy, easy to knock people. I’d like to see their track records when it comes to management because it’s a lot different to playing, I can promise you that.”
He continued: “But this messing has to stop. It’s nothing but negativity and negativity all the time. This Championship has been great: Waterford have played a part in it, we’ve played a part in it, Galway are still playing a part in it and Cork have brought a game where they’re using short and long ball all the time. They’re moving like anything. They’re hitting spaces. I heard one analyst, I think, last week, describe Cork as going out and playing with freedom. Cork are thinking their way around, Cork know what they’re about, they’re working hard so I respect the likes of other teams who are trying stuff and fair play to them, so I do, and I love that about the GAA.
“Will I get slammed for saying what I said? I will. But do you know what? I don’t care. I don’t care. I want to see change. I’m a hurling man. And I don’t buy into just because Henry or Michael Duignan said something that it’s gospel. It’s not.”
When suggested that he was referring to Michael Duignan’s analysis of Brian Cody’s altercation with a sideline official during the Waterford/Kilkenny Qualifier, Fitzgerald refused to be drawn out on the specifics of his comments on the former Offaly player.
“I’m not going there…yet when something had to be said a few weeks ago, they bottled it, one or two of them. It’s easy to jump on a bandwagon. When I got my suspension; when I got my suspension, there were five or six of them who jumped on the bandwagon. It’s easy to jump on one side for an easy target. That’s how I feel and that’s the story…
“But do you know what, guys. I want ye to do tomorrow: to celebrate what Waterford did outside there, 1-23, they won an All-Ireland Quarter-Final, they’re in a Semi-Final and do you know what, there’s going to be more surprises in this Championship yet. This isn’t a done deal because I think for the first time in a long time, you can’t tell me who’s going to win that All-Ireland. I think it’s going to be tight…and I’m actually so excited and that I’ll now be a spectator and I’ll actually get to look at it and I’m excited to think any one of four teams could win this Championship – and I believe that.”
So how has Davy evaluated Year One of his Wexford project? “I don’t think it’s (been) too bad,” he replied, as a grin broke across his face. “If you asked Wexford if they’d be happy being promoted, I’d say yeah. I was told I was crazy going down there, that I must be off my head! For me, personally, it’s a long drive; we’ll see what lies ahead for me from now on. I have to say the way I’ve been treated down there, by the County Board, by everybody, has been incredible. The players, not once did they question anything I did. If I asked them to train four nights in a row, they never questioned it. It was a breath of fresh air. It was lovely. And I enjoyed it.
“And to see the way they’re hurt in there – they’re hurt – they believe they had a chance to win today and they’re hurt inside there. I couldn’t be more proud and I see it as a good year for Wexford and I think they need to grow and over the next two or three years – I think Derek is at it four years, he’s won a National League and he wants to take that next step. And don’t we need Wexford back? We don’t need to lose them out of hurling, and that’s without a shadow of a doubt.”
Citing the five and a half hour round trip from Sixmilebridge to Wexford, Fitzgerald said he was going to “reflect” in the next few weeks about committing to the job for another year. But it would be a huge surprise if the All-Ireland, Munster and League winning manager didn’t return to the south east again next season.
“My heart really loves this but I don’t know what’s going to happen but I absolutely could not speak highly enough of everyone; to a person they were brilliant down there…but I’m going to take a bit of time to think about.”
The wider hurling world will surely hope that Davy Fitzgerald will stick with the Model County for another tilt at League and Championship come 2018. It’s great to see Wexford mixing it again and one hopes they’ll continue to improve – and continuity in management would go a long, long way in ticking that particular box.