Waterford have duly appointed Davy Fitzgerald as manager of their senior hurlers. In a move that was well flagged, the county executive endorsed the recommendation of the sub-committee appointed to find a successor to Liam Cahill, who stepped down in July and was swiftly appointed to the Tipperary position.
Ratified by the county committee, the installation of the Clare man, who led his own county to the 2013 All-Ireland, is for a three-year term with a review after two seasons.
Although it had not been on anyone’s radar up until the past week or so, all of the signs in recent days were to the effect that Fitzgerald would be appointed. No details of his proposed backroom team emerged from the meeting.
It is Fitzgerald’s second tour of duty with the county. Appointed in 2008 after the early-season departure of Justin McCarthy, he led the county to its first All-Ireland final since 1963 and although they had the misfortune to run into peak Kilkenny and lost by 23 points, the county would reach the last four for each of his seasons in charge.
They also added what remains Waterford’s most recent Munster title by beating Cork in a replay in the 2010 championship.
Concerns that there might be baggage from his first term were assuaged by the fact that he left the county 11 years ago and of the current panel only Pauric Mahony survives from back then.
There was also the consideration that he is an experienced coach whereas Waterford have tended to go with up-and-coming managers – including Fitzgerald in his first term – and that this will be important with a team that needs to break through sooner rather than later.
The two most recent managers, Cahill and Derek McGrath, reached the All-Ireland final in 2017 and the winter championship three years later, losing narrowly to Galway in the first and being well beaten by Limerick in the second.
This year was a major disappointment despite winning the national league in April. In the round-robin championship, Waterford failed to progress from the group stages, defeating only Tipperary in the schedule.
Fitzgerald successfully revived fortunes in Wexford on his 2017 appointment, making them competitive against Kilkenny before winning the 2019 Leinster title and coming close to defeating Tipperary in the All-Ireland semi-final.
Waterford also have a foundation of players who have won under-age All-Irelands whereas Wexford didn’t.
The biggest challenge on the horizon, as it is for all hurling counties, is the formidable presence of three-in-a-row champions Limerick.
Fitzgerald had been involved this year as coach with the Cork camogie team, extending his intercounty involvement to 36 consecutive years but when he stepped down immediately after last week’s All-Ireland final defeat by Kilkenny, speculation picked up that he would re-engage with management in the men’s game.
Initially, that speculation had linked him with Dublin where there remains a vacancy. There had been hopes that the position of Mattie Kenny’s successor would be filled this week but so far there has been no news on the matter.
Former Laois manager Eddie Brennan was canvassed as one possibility as he had been involved in the county as manager of former All-Ireland champions Cuala and it has also been speculated that Pat Gilroy might be available.
The St Vincent’s man is more associated with guiding Dublin’s return from the football wilderness in 2011 but he also put in a season as hurling manager before work commitments cut short his tenure. Gilroy’s coach was Anthony Cunningham who coincidentally stepped down recently as manager of the Roscommon footballers
In Clare, Brian Lohan and his management have yet to confirm their readiness to continue but that is expected in the coming weeks. Currently Lohan is in the middle of a three-year reappointment, granted last year after an initial two-year term when brought in, for the 2020 season.
Liam Kearns has been confirmed as the new Offaly football manager on a three-year term and it is reported in the Irish Mirror that Tipperary All-Ireland winning duo Liam Sheedy and Eamon O’Shea will take over the county hurlers in an ambitious move for the McDonagh Cup county.
Antrim: Darren Gleeson
Dublin: Vacancy (outgoing Mattie Kenny)
Galway: Henry Shefflin
Kilkenny: Derek Lyng (Brian Cody)
Westmeath: Joe Fortune
Wexford: Darragh Egan
Clare: Brian Lohan
Cork: Pat Ryan (Kieran Kingston)
Limerick: John Kiely
Tipperary: Liam Cahill (Colm Bonnar)
Waterford: Davy Fitzgerald (Liam Cahill)