Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald has challenged Michael Duignan to take charge of his native Offaly – and “put his thoughts into action”, writes Jackie Cahill.
Fitzgerald lashed Duignan and Henry Shefflin in the wake of Wexford’s defeat to Waterford in Sunday’s All-Ireland senior hurling quarter-final – and questioned their ability as RTÉ TV pundits.
That prompted a robust response from Duignan in his newspaper column and in a Sunday night social media exchange with Seoirse Bulfin – one of Fitzgerald’s Wexford selectors.
Duignan described Fitzgerald as “completely out of order” and “obsessed with himself” when Bulfin asked why he was ‘shocked’ by the Clare man’s post-match comments.
Fitzgerald was interviewed on Newstalk’s Off The Ball last night – and explained the reasons behind his post-match tirade.
He said: “Some of the analysts…having a go at Michael Duignan yesterday…like he’s been going out about it now for two or three years and it just annoyed me and I’m sure (Waterford manager) Derek (McGrath) is the same.
“I’d encourage Michael if he could to just go down on the sideline, get involved with maybe Offaly, put his thoughts into action and see how he gets on.
“It’s a different thing when you have to go down on that sideline and you have to make decisions for 30 of a panel, to get the best for them, to give them a chance of being successful.
“All I’ve to say to Michael is, the likes of Clare have won X amount of All-Irelands, we used the sweeper to win an All-Ireland, we used it to win a National League.
“And we’ve only won three or four National Leagues in our history.
“Wexford are waiting years for years to get out of Division 1B, it showed some ambition get out of that, to take on the Limericks and Galways and beat them. “We beat Kilkenny playing it. I believe 100 per cent you can win with it (sweeper).
“I’ve met Michael on a number of occasions and I think he’s a good guy, I like him, but that doesn’t mean I think he’s right.
“Surely, I’m allowed to have my opinion, the same as he’s allowed to have his, that’s all I’m saying. I’m entitled to that.
“If I’m with a team, I’m there to try and win and make a difference.
“Will I keep everybody happy? I won’t.
“Have I got an agenda against Michael Duignan or Henry Shefflin? Not at all, no way whatsoever, but if I feel something, I’ll say it.”
Speaking yesterday, Limerick native Bulfin explained why he engaged with Duignan.
He said: “Where I have an issue is that he (Fitzgerald) is entitled to have an opinion about Michael’s opinion.
“If Michael has an opinion, he puts it out, well and good.
“I’ve no issue with that but Fitzy bites back and you have to accept that as well.
“If you’re going to have something in the public domain, you have to accept when someone has a go back.
“There’s a lot of ex-players and pundits out there, and you’d wonder sometimes are they just saying things to get more publicity and air-time.
“The more of that they get, the more chance of a slot on a Sunday night.”
And Bulfin echoed Fitzgerald’s call for Duignan, a former coach in the mid 2000s when Mike McNamara was in charge, to get involved again with Offaly.
He said: “I’d have a fierce regard for Duignan, and a lot of his ideas are quite good.
“I follow him and Daithi Regan on Twitter and the Offaly board could do worse than put those lads in.
“It would be a very good move for Offaly if those two lads too up the opportunity.”
Bulfin also insisted that there’s no guarantee that Fitzgerald will return for a second season in charge of Wexford.
And he said: “I’ll be honest, I have a third child coming in October and I’ll be starting a PhD in Mary Immaculate College, a continuation of the Masters which is a psycho-social analysis of the impact of being an inter-county player, and the rigours of it.
“I don’t know what the story is (with Fitzgerald). He spoke quite candidly in the dressing room, about how he enjoyed the year and how tremendous it was to work with the lads.
“But there’s no point in saying otherwise – it’s a woeful journey, three and a half hours each way.
“From my point of view, you’re getting home at 12.30 and up at 6.30 to go to work in Thurles.
“But Fitzy’s up and down the road five or six times a week. I don’t know how he does it.”
Bulfin smiled and admitted that his wife, Sharon, isn’t the biggest fan of the sweeper system.
But he felt he had to challenge Duignan when he became aware of the contents of his Monday morning newspaper column.
He said: “This thing about the sweeper and the negativity around it is a populist opinion and some of the pundits have been banging on about it for the last 12 months.
“I’ll be honest, my wife is big into the hurling and she’s not a big fan of it, we’d have wicked debates but you set up the way you think will get the best out of the guys you’re with.
“It’s easy to jump on a bandwagon and beat the drum day in, day out.”
Bonus PaperTalk: Peter McNamara talks to Cork U21 hurling coach John Meyler ahead of Wednesday’s Munster final with Limerick. John discusses his emotional reaction to semi-final victory over Waterford, Cork hurling’s renaissance, his love of coaching, sweeper systems and tactics and much more.