Fitzgerald tweaks system as he seeks to guide Wexford to next level
Manager says Model panel started back later this year in order to peak at the right time
Davy Fitzgerald: “When they’re on their game, when they’re mentally up for it and physically at it, Wexford will live with anyone.” Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
Back in 2014, during a chat with students at Limerick IT, Davy Fitzgerald spoke of being bullied while attending secondary school.
The abuse ranged from insults to physical attacks, having his hair pulled and, on one occasion, having his shirt opened and his body painted on.
“To this day, I don’t understand bullying,” Fitzgerald told the gathering, drawing a direct line between those experiences and his style of hurling management.
“People often ask me why I have an attitude on the sideline – I have an attitude because I won’t let anyone walk down on top of me. 100 per cent not.”
Passing over to his players that sheer refusal to yield is arguably Fitzgerald’s greatest skill as a manager.
Wexford, whom he claimed had been virtually ‘lost’ from the top tier of the game before his arrival in late 2016, are now recognised as a serious force and came from 1-8 to 0-3 down at one stage against Kilkenny last weekend to record another significant win over an established county, thus securing Saturday’s Allianz league quarter-final tie against Galway.
Asked if its suits him to manage an underdog, Fitzgerald nodded enthusiastically.
“I prefer to, I love seeing teams that are not meant to do stuff, do stuff. I get a buzz out of that. If you look at my CV club-wise, or even county-wise, I’ve a nice bit of stuff won but a lot of it would be with teams that hadn’t done it beforehand. That’s what I get the buzz out of because, if you take Clare in the mid-90s, I was lucky to have played with a great bunch of guys. We came out of no place and that’s some feeling.”
In his third season with Wexford, Fitzgerald believes they’ve made the great leap from underdog to, if not exactly top dog, something close.
“I was thinking about it, how many times have we beaten Galway in the last few years? How many times have we beaten Tipp, Limerick, Kilkenny and I actually worked it out coming up in the car and we have done it a good bit,” said Fitzgerald, who was in Dublin for the launch of the 2019 KN Group All-Ireland GAA Golf challenge.
“We have beaten those teams so that should say to the boys, ‘Okay, you can compete with those lads’.
The next step is pulling off those big wins on a regular basis, being more consistent, and improving the depth of their panel.
“When they’re on their game, when they’re mentally up for it and physically at it, Wexford will live with anyone,” said Fitzgerald.
“If we can bring those things to the table, we’ll live with anyone but when we don’t . . ..like, I thought the All-Ireland quarter-final last year against Clare, no disrespect to Clare, but we were very flat.
“Physically, we didn’t put in the challenges that we should have put in. If you look at us playing say, Kilkenny, or Tipp the last day in the league or Kilkenny in the championship last year, physically we were right there and if you remember the Clare game, we weren’t.
“That’s why I looked at things, tried to look at things a bit differently this year, start back a bit later, try and time the run. We didn’t start hurling until the first of January this year. I’ve left things a bit later on purpose to see will that make a difference.”