Davy Fitzgerald glories in bond between himself and his players
‘If I told you the training they did. You would not believe the stuff we did in November’
Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald on the team bus with the Leinster Championship trophy. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
Davy Fitzgerald walks through the door grin first. He’s in the sort of mood where he really doesn’t even need a question. Just leave a space in a sentence and he’ll talk for the night.
“I’ll tell you the truth,” he says. “my big thing, I absolutely love them boys. I would have a very close bond with them and I mean that genuinely, even personally. I am so happy to see how they were afterwards.
“I love seeing that. I love seeing them – they are Leinster champions 2019, and no one can ever take that away from them, no matter what the story is. I am so happy for them, so happy for them.
“I want them to enjoy what they do. They have worked tirelessly to get here. People might say it is a Leinster Championship. A Leinster Championship means so much to this bunch, it’s incredible. And so much to the Wexford people.
“The emotion feels the exact same for me, whether it is winning with Clare as a player or as a manager, winning with Waterford. Just happy to see those boys so happy. If I told you half the stuff them boys said to me when the final whistle went . . . it makes it so worthwhile.”
We’ve seen him in this room in all humours and colours. Happy Davy. Mischievous Davy. Grouchy Davy. World’s Against Us Davy. We don’t often get this Davy, the picture of pure unalloyed contentment. What gives, Davy?
“More than anything, I’ve seen what they’ve gone through. If I told you the training they did, you would not believe the stuff we did back in November, December and January. You would not believe it.
Pushed to the limit
“It might have been a bit different after that, but they were pushed to the limit. Probably the same as every county, they train hard, but there was a doubt when I came in there in their own minds.
“I know they doubted were they good enough to do stuff. I remember the first night I met them below in Seafield, I think I kept them for two and a half hours. And I gave them a big questionnaire to fill out, and I’d say they didn’t know what was after hitting them.
“The big thing for me is I’ve asked them to do stuff that sometimes you might question; they didn’t question. They bought into everything. If you get a team to buy into stuff you have a chance of doing something. I kind of enjoy that.
“I enjoy going down to Wexford, making people smile, and it’s just been a great journey. I kind of don’t want it to stop, but we’ll see what happens.”
Down in the tunnel the driver of the Wexford bus has been busy. The writing above the front windshield has been changed to LEINSTER CHAMPIONS 2019.
Shaun Murphy has a cut on the bridge of his nose you could drive said bus through. Much like some of the Kilkenny attack, he was unlucky enough to run into Matthew O’Hanlon at one stage. “I won’t be getting any modelling work for a while,” he smiles.
Four teams left
It’s only four years since Kilkenny beat them 5-25 to 0-16 in a Leinster Championship game in Nowlan Park. The turnaround that started in Liam Dunne’s time has been carried on by Fitzgerald, and now here they are. The next time they hurl they’ll be one of four teams left.
“Ah he’s just a pure winner,” Murphy says when we ask what Fitzgerald has brought them. “Whether it’s hurling or cards or table tennis, he just wants to win.
“You could be playing on weekends away and it could be cards or it could be table tennis or whatever it’d be and it’d be winner stays on, and Davy comes on board and it’s a tournament. You have to win it.
“And he instils that into us. We have to and we want to win every game. Everything we do, I suppose we want to do it. We’ve been craving that success over the last while, and I suppose he’s won it as a player and as a manager, and when he tells us we’re good enough you believe him.”