Davy Fitzgerald: ‘You can’t just pick two teams and throw them in a final’

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Davy Fitzgerald is not a man to hold back in his opinions and that is no different when it comes to the GAA’s handling of the National League.

Speaking at an EirGrid promotion celebrating the role of GAA managers, the Wexford boss expressed his unhappiness about how the tournament will be concluded.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the GAA decided to make the Munster SHC quarter-final between Clare and Limerick ‘double up’ as the National League final, as both teams topped their groups.

“I 100 per cent think it’s the wrong thing they’ve done,” he said. “We’re on a quarter-final on merit, the same as Galway are. I think it was premature to do what they did, I don’t think you can just pick two teams and throw them into a league final.

“I’d like them to revisit it, it’s important to finish it out. I know the year is different, I accept all that, but you can’t change a competition and do that. Instead of maybe playing a Walsh Cup or playing something next year before the League, take two or three weeks and play this year’s competition off. I think it’s important to finish it out.”

Fitzgerald’s joy at guiding his hometown club Sixmilebridge to back-to-back Clare senior hurling titles was a happier subject.

“The weekend was pretty special. From March right through to June it was a serious few months for a number of reasons. You couldn’t get together, I was worried about well-being of players. To end up in a county final, to end up winning, it’s so special you wouldn’t believe it.”

Fitzgerald does not do things by half measures, with either Wexford or Sixmilebridge.

He recalled taking a training session the morning after his wedding last year with a smile.

“Fair play to Sharon. The day before the wedding we trained, the day after the wedding, I didn’t get to bed until 6am and I think we had training at 11am in the morning. They’re a special bunch so it was good to go down and work with them, I don’t think Sharon was too happy!”

The back-to-back titles brought back memories of the same achievement in his playing days, while Fitzgerald said it was no less special with limited fans, as the 200 supporters in Ennis at the weekend made plenty of noise.

“I remember playing in 1992/1993, when I look back on it now it was so special. I got to play with my club heroes, the likes of John O’Connell, Gerry McInerney, all the Chaplins. It was special back then.

“On Sunday, there was 200 supporters there but they made enough noise, it was different. To tell you the truth, when the game is on, once they’re in the white lines, it’s a game of hurling. That’s all you want is to be playing and letting yourself go.”

Fitzgerald is still getting used to coaching his players in the midst of a global pandemic.

He said the process has been made easier by a new member of his Wexford backroom team, a dedicated Covid officer.

The most difficult adjustment? Not being able to hug his players!

“I’m probably not as much up on them [Covid rules] as I should be but we have our own Covid officer who has everything off to a tee, he’s the one who leads me every night in training and if something crops up, he’s going to take charge of it. It’s funny, it’s another part of your backroom team, I’ll be letting him take over if that crops up and we do 100 per cent what he says has to be done.

“I’m conscious about not hugging guys or touching off guys myself. I’ve five stents in so I’m a bit more wary. I’m one these guys who wants to get out and get on with things but I just have to be as sensible as I can and adhere to as many guidelines as a I can.”

Fitzgerald is looking forward to the Leinster SHC semi-final clash with Galway, although he does have reservations about playing under lights.

“I wouldn’t be the biggest fan of floodlit hurling if I’m totally honest. I’d prefer a Saturday evening game or a Sunday at two or three o’clock, that would be my preference. I believe hurling is there to be played in the daylight, but I’ll accept it, I’m not going to be kicking up a fuss. Hopefully Croke Park will see the sense in letting us play there, I think it’s the right place to play, the lights there are phenomenal.”

Fitzgerald enjoys a close bond with the Wexford panel and he kept in close contact with them during lockdown.

“They’re free spirits these guys, they love the craic. They’re a great bunch, I think it was important to keep communication with each other. There was a lot of stuff we kept in touch with, it wasn’t all training we had great fun.”

While Fitzgerald has a number of health problems, he is happy to be taking training and returning to normality again, adding that it’s a case of taking personal responsibility.

“Even in terms of the mental side of things, getting out and meeting a few people it’s so important. I have five stents but I want to be involved. It’s my own personal choice to get out there and be involved. There is risks, it’s my choice to take them but I want to be as careful as I possibly can in the meantime. I don’t want to stop living my life but I am aware of things I have to do better.”

While we’re used to seeing Fitzgerald doing as many miles as his players on the sideline, he said he has used lockdown to take a breather and focus on what is really important in life.

“One of the big things I’ve taken out of this is I’d like to spend a bit more time with my mam and dad if I can. I live a very short distance from them, so spending more time with the people that matter. I’ve had nice bit of weight loss I want to keep off, I feel better, more energetic.

“I remember one evening, my sister lives beside my parents, just being around with them and there were two or three neighbours, well spaced out on the road, we were just mad to chat and talk away. That had been all lost, it was soemthing we used to do years ago, it was actually so much fun.

“On a few occasions recently I’d just throw my phone down for an hour or two, that’s not something I would have done before. I actually changed my number recently because I was getting absolutely hammered with different things. It’s nice to get your own bit of space and time, I probably appreciated that a lot more in lockdown.”

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