Wexford hurlers getting along fine without Davy Fitzgerald
Conor McDonald says Wexford now have complete faith in themselves
Conor McDonald of Wexford: “I don’t think Davy Fitzgerald gets enough credit for that, what he can do, and what he can bring out of players.” Photograph: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
There is nothing in the GAA rulebook to indicate that Davy Fitzgerald’s suspension extends to WhatsApp, although even if it did, Conor McDonald suggests Wexford hurling would still be getting along just fine.
Fitzgerald is now almost halfway through the eight-week suspension imposed after his on-pitch incursion during last month’s league semi-final to Tipperary, ruling the Wexford manager out of all “GAA activity” up to and including their likely showdown with Kilkenny on June 10th (assuming Wexford beat the round-robin qualifiers on Sunday week).
For McDonald – one of the star forwards in Wexford’s reignited team since Fitzgerald took charge this season – not having their manager around has only been a mild inconvenience. Indeed Fitzgerald’s influence already runs deeper and McDonald reckons Wexford are now a team with complete faith in themselves.
“There’s not a whole lot to tell,” says McDonald, speaking in Croke Park at the Bord Gáis Energy hurling championship launch. “Davy got his ban, and to be fair to him, if it was any other manager, I don’t think they would have been able to deal with it as well as he has.
“His organisation skills have just kicked up another gear, and it hasn’t really affected the training schedule at all. We do have a serious backroom team, and I think with him not appealing it, it’s probably a bit of a statement as well, for those lads to step up as well.
“Look, he’s not allowed to take part in any activities. So it’s all from a distance, giving different guys their different roles. But of course he’s allowed speak to us. It would have been a fairly harsh ban if he wasn’t. Yeah, one-on-one. And we have a WhatsApp group, which is flying.
“We have to prepare for a championship which we hope is going to go really well for us, if he’s there or not. I just think that if he was there or not the intensity would be the same in training. The lads in the backroom have stepped up a notch, seriously, and are giving it everything they can. Everyone is respecting the situation, as best they can, working together. And that’s the only way to do it.”
McDonald was also surprised at some of the criticism of Fitzgerald’s actions against Tipperary that day, described in certain quarters as an “imbecile”, and certainly crossing the line.
“That’s silly, really. For a man showing his passion, to use a word like that, is fairly childish. Davy is a passionate man and if he felt something was right, if I felt something was right or wrong, and felt it was the right option, I would do it. And I’m sure that’s the way he felt as well. I don’t know whether it worked or not but it definitely had an effect.
“But he’s one of us now and he would consider us as his family. We’re a tight-knit group and we have to be for this situation itself and it’s only making us stronger.”
There is no doubt the “Davy factor” has played a major role in Wexford’s form this season, which saw them go undefeated in Division 1B, before losing to Tipp. Even his game, says McDonald, has stepped up a gear.
“He tells you what you’re good at and what you’re bad at. Players tell each other what they think you could do better. I could go meet a player and say ‘you know what, I don’t think you’re really excelling in this part of your game’ and it’s all for the betterment of Wexford and ourselves as a group.
“I thought previously we were actually pretty good at it. I know what they say about Irish males, but you won’t actually believe how open we can be. It’s actually ridiculous. It really is. And the more you do it the more open you are going to be. It’s crazy.
“I don’t think he [Davy]) gets enough credit for that, what he can do, and what he can bring out of players. Essentially it’s letting players express themselves. Nearly every time he speaks you get something new every time, and that’s really refreshing.
“It feels so at ease at training to know that you can turn around to any of the lads and say something, anything. It might not even be about hurling. It’s tough to take at times, obviously.
“You might think you’re going well and not think you’re doing anything wrong and there might be a guy there to pull you up. There is no bad mouthing behind anyone’s back. Nothing blunt, just trying to make you better. You wouldn’t even take it as blunt.”