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Tuesday 25 July 2017

Davy is stepping into the unknown again

Fitzgerald 'didn't have a clue' about Wexford

Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald. Photo: Sportsfile
Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald. Photo: Sportsfile

If Wexford's players didn't know quite what to expect from Davy Fitzgerald after his appointment late last year, they were left in no doubt after their first meeting with their new manager.

"I had a presentation, 15 or 20 pages of a presentation and I think they knew that night what the story was going to be," Fitzgerald recalls now.

"I outlined in detail where I wanted to go, how I wanted to go and what the story was. I think they got the message that night. They had two weeks to go away and prepare and get ready."

And if the Wexford county board didn't know what to expect from the Clare man, he didn't waste much time in setting the agenda with those who brought him to the South East either.

"I suppose when I asked them for 160 balls for the first night in training, they nearly had a seizure," he chuckles now.

Unknown

"I told them I wanted that every night. It came as a bit of a shock."

What Fitzgerald expected of Wexford is another matter entirely.

Hand on heart now, he says, he didn't really know.

"I didn't have a clue. I didn't. You come in and you are not sure. You were stepping into the unknown.

"The only thing that was said to me, I thought it was very much like Clare.

"Remember when I took over Clare in 2011, it was crazy, there was nothing there.

"We hadn't won U21s, we hadn't won All-Ireland minors in Clare, everyone likes to think we had. We hadn't."

So he's as surpised at the trajectory of Wexford's upward swing as anyone.

"If I walked away after two years here and we got to a Leinster final, got promoted, I would have said to myself, 'Davy, you have done a decent job.'

Maybe it shouldn't come as such a profound shock.

In his first year as Waterford senior manager, he rescued them from a mid-summer meltdown and got them into an All-Ireland final.

His debut season with Clare wasn't quite so successful but by year two, he had captured the unlikeliest All-Ireland of the last decade.

Fitzgerald's gut sense about Wexford was that they weren't complete no-hopers but at the same time he couldn't exactly call on a bank of sturdy evidence to support that particular theory.

"I would love to f***in' tell you I knew exactly," he admits.

"I had a feeling. I had seen certain things in them and I thought there might be more there, but I wasn't sure.

"You don't know until you go in there. You don't know. The way they worked for me from day one, they got a fair shock the first night when they went in for training, and they saw the intensity that I wanted."

A promotion, a victory over Kilkenny and Sunday's Leinster final appearance later and Fitzgerald is only shy of having a statue erected in Wexford town, yet he knows that just because the first six months of his reign have gone so well doesn't guarantee anything in future.

"Don't' have any doubt about that. I don't know. We might get a trimming and a half the next day," he points out.

"Do I think any less of them? No, because we have won big games this year.

"I thought it might take two to three years for us to get to where we are now."

Fitzgerald himself has remained box office.

His sideline ban is up now, meaning Fitzgerald can prowl the Croke Park sideline as he pleases on Sunday ,but he's still toying with the idea of taking up at least temporary station in one of Croke Park's analysis boxes.

The theory that he does so for his own good isn't one to which Fitzgerald has an active subscription.

"If you watch me for 70, 75 minutes, how much of that 75 will I be animated for? How much will I be here like I am now with my arms folded?" he asks.

"Like, I'm funny. I won't have an issue with a ref after a game.

"Listen I could be getting savage abuse from behind me and I can't turn around and give out to them, you know."

"I reckon probably maybe eight or nine tenths of the time I'll be like this.

"If I see something, I will f***ing fight for it.

"If I feel something, I am going to fight for it. That's why probably the refs will have an issue with it."

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