Davy Fitzgerald considering staying in stand for Leinster final
New vantage point proved an eye-opener for Wexford manager in the defeat of Kilkenny
Davy Fitzgerald confronts Jason Forde during the league semi-final at Nowlan Park. “I deserved the ban, I was on the field, and if you’re on the field, that’s it, you accept it.” Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Cheekily, naturally – so we throw the question back at him.
“Well, sometimes I feel I have,” he smiles, “and sometimes I feel I have not.”
Either way Fitzgerald has, during that eight-week suspension for a pitch incursion in the league semi-final defeat to Tipperary, guided Wexford past Laois and then Kilkenny, to set up a Leinster final date with Galway in Croke Park on July 2nd.
Whether that punishment fit the crime or not, Fitzgerald may well have gained a valuable lesson, as he’s now considering staying in the stands, rather than standing on the sideline, for that final showdown, and perhaps even beyond.
“I wouldn’t rule it out,” he says, speaking at Wexford’s media evening at their centre of excellence in Ferns.
“I’m seriously thinking of it, and I’ll tell you why. I felt back that night I could see the game way better. There must be logic in why the rugby managers do what they do. Soccer, it’s a little different, it’s a lot slower.
“But from a managerial point of view, it makes more sense to be up there. So I am considering it, maybe half up, half down. In the next week I will decide, but it’s worth thinking about. I’ve had a look at a box in Croke Park, so it is there. And I’d say they’d be happy if I was in a box too.”
His decision to accept the sideline ban, rather than appeal it, may have gone against the grain of the GAA’s disciplinary process, but he believes enough had already been made of the incident, and hinted at his unease at the way some people portrayed it.
“Naturally, you look at every avenue, and you think about it. But one of the deciding factors was how much of a meal ye made of it. I just decided I wasn’t going to give ye another week of making another meal out of it.
“That would have been a factor, that there was already too much made of it. So I just decided to get it dead, take it, and get on with it.”
Did he think the length of the eight-week suspension was fair?
“Look, it’s done for me, it’s over, and I’m happy now it’s gone. If this was me maybe three or four years ago, I might say something differently to ye now. But nah, scrap it, it’s done, it’s over and we move on.
“Trust me, I could go to games most weekends and you could see someone going in for a talk with the referee. I didn’t actually give out to the referee. It wasn’t on his report.
“I thought I might have been done for encroachment onto the pitch, but I didn’t go looking for a Tipperary player. Anyone plain as day could see that. And I actually hated the fact he [Jason Forde] got banned as well, I rang Tipp at the time, and said if there was anything I could do, I’d do it.
“But you know what, I deserved the ban, I was on the field, and if you’re on the field, that’s it, you accept it. So I can’t say I was hard done by, because I did deserve a ban.”
In the meantime, Wexford cruised past Laois, but his absence was expected to be felt against Kilkenny. Instead the home side triumphed 1-20 to 3-11 in Wexford Park, as Fitzgerald watched from a purpose-built men’s shed in the middle of the Wexford Park press box decants. Was it hard to watch from there?
“Well no, and if you watch me for 70, 75 minutes? How long am I actually animated? Most of the time my arms are folded. But if I see something, I will fight for it.
“But we have a system in Wexford, and everything flows pretty well. A good backroom staff, so very little changed, everything worked the same way. I talked to the lads, it was all grand. I was happy enough, thought they’d be okay, my only concern was would they be able to maintain intensity, this drive going. But they’ve come through the last two games.
“We’ve got some momentum now, it helps 100 per cent. But you need more than that. Against Kilkenny, that was very physical. It’s going into the unknown now. Most of these guys, the biggest crowd they would have played before was 25,000. Maybe 30,000.
“It’s a big step up. Galway, if you look at them, have been in four of six Leinster finals, two All-Irelands. They have that experience, and that’s a plus. I think the experience of Galway losing one or two has built resilience, and I think they’re a stronger team for it.”