As part of a new series of interviews with Ireland’s top sports stars, we sat down with Wexford hurling manager, Davy Fitzgerald, to discuss life as manager of the county’s senior side.
It’s been an incredible year and a half for Davy Fitzgerald. Since he first took charge of Wexford’s Senior Hurling team, they’ve made huge strides.
Having moved up the league ranks to Divison 1A, the Model County went on to participate in their first Leinster Final since ’06 and have been competing well with hurling’s elite ever since.
Fitzgerald took a huge chance when committing to a lengthy commute from his native Clare to take the reins at Wexford. Since then, it’s been quite the journey metaphorically and literally speaking.
“I honestly don’t have a regret for a second. The driving is long but when you enjoy something you get over it.”
Despite many people telling him he was ‘wasting his time with Wexford’, Fitzgerald says he has relished the task of guiding Wexford toward greener pastures.
“It was a bit of a challenge with Wexford. They had won three Leinsters but still hadn’t performed on the All Ireland stage.There was decent talent there but I reckoned there was a lot more that could have been gotten out of them.
“They weren’t making an impact in 1B, they didn’t look like getting out but I had seen patches of them, especially in 2014. That’s what I kind of liked. It’s a massive challenge, I wanted to go down and see what I could do.”
Fitzgerald is obsessive about his passion. He would have marked out specific goals that he wanted to achieve with this group, but even the most diehard of Wexford supporters would not have anticipated just how quickly things would improve once the former Clare shot-stopper came on board.
Meeting on a sunny Sunday morning in the Wexford Centre of Excellence in Ferns, this writer asked Davy what, in particular, had attracted him to the Wexford post.
“It was interesting, I’d finished with Clare and I had said to myself I’m going to take a year or two out. I needed a break, I had been going, between playing and managing for the past 28 years at the top level, which is a lot.”
Davy would be left contemplating whether to bow out from the game or take a self-imposed break.
He ultimately decided the latter would be best, and settled on taking some time out.
That was, however, until Wexford County Board Chairman Diarmuid Devereux came knocking.
“With my health issues I said it’s time for a break and then the Wexford County Chairman, Diarmuid Devereux came to me and we agreed to meet.
“We’d a great chat and I loved his enthusiasm but I said, I still can’t do it.”
Devereux, however, was persistent and could sense a sparkle of interest within Fitzgerald. Intent on getting Davy to sign on the dotted line, Devereux continued his courting.
Fitzgerald would point to the team’s hunger for success and improvement, as well as assurances from Devereux that the squad would get their hands dirty from the get-go as two key reasons for accepting the job.
“It was the persistence of Devereux that made me take the job and he told me how much of an appetite the players have.
“I love doing stuff that you’re not meant to do. That’s how I ended up here, it was a bit of pig-headedness. Even ‘feck the drive, I’m going to have a cut at it’.
“A year and a half later, no regrets so far.”
That promise was delivered on and the work put in from players and management has been phenomenal, leading to a number of memorable days for Wexford hurling fans.
“I hope the fans never change, it’s made me want to keep doing the journey. I actually want to win for them so badly. In any of the matches we’ve played, we haven’t got stick and that’s kind of amazing because in any job I’ve been in so far, you get it.”
While the feel-good factor among Wexford hurling devotees appears to have rubbed off on Fitzgerald, he knows the summer ahead isn’t going to be an easy one.
“They need have no fear, we’re working hard, I won’t get it right all the time on the sideline but we will play our hearts out for Wexford.”
“The lads give me every single ounce. We work exceptionally hard every day we go out and I’m telling you we will win more games than we lose.”
Wexford host Dublin in the Leinster Senior Hurling Championship on May 20th. Check back on Thursday for Part II of our interview with Wexford boss, Davy Fitzgerald.