Davy ready to bring the noise against Kilkenny

Davy ready to bring the noise against Kilkenny
FRIENDLY RIVALRY: Wexford boss Davy Fitzgerald and Kikenny chief Brian Cody after last year’s Championship meeting.Picture: Daire Brennan

It’s March 10 last, a wind- assisted Wexford have outscored his team by 12 points in the second half to make the league knockout stages, and to make matters worse, Conor Delaney has been red carded in the closing stages.

Emerging from his silent dressing room to field questions from the print media into the Wexford Park’s slim corridor, Brian Cody has been in better moods and his is darkened further by the dance music booming out of the Wexford dressing room.

Now Cody is no stick-in-the-mud but Bruce Springsteen is more his bag and his look of disapproval towards the source of it is endorsed by journalists fearing his words might be drowned out when it comes to transcribing them later.

Some might consider Wexford to be milking a league win as much as it was a local rivalry but then the ghetto-blaster features prominently pre-match and their training sessions. “I love it,” Davy Fitzgerald has said of the nightclub feel in the dressing room. “The boys love it. The louder it is, the more they love it.”

At the same venue in 2014, Fitzgerald was on the receiving end of it as Wexford celebrated with gusto having dethroned Clare in their qualifier replay.

But it’s appropriate in this case given how much of an irritant he has been to the Cats that Fitzgerald is painted as the noisy neighbour.

His style — as much as his music — is not something many in Kilkenny are partial to.

Whether it has been Seán Murphy or Kevin Foley as the sweeper/seventh defender, it’s a tactic that has long been frowned upon across the border.

“The sweeper system is dated,” declared Jackie Tyrrell last July. “I feel that they need a new direction, something fresh.”

On Saturday, Wexford, operating similar tactics, are gunning for a third straight win over Kilkenny this season.

Tyrrell’s point was understandable in light of Wexford comprehensively losing a second successive All-Ireland quarter-final but Fitzgerald was never going to waive his convictions that inspired the likes of Derek McGrath and his successors in Clare for a spell.

And why should he change a strategy which has worked so effectively against Kilkenny, a county Wexford feared to face for many years?

The breakthrough came in the 2017 Division 1 quarter-final in Nowlan Park, which represented a first win for Wexford there in 60 years, but there was more magic when the Model County followed it up with a Leinster semi-final win that June.

Cody and Fitzgerald enjoy a respectful relationship but it turned a little frosty last year after Wexford won the Walsh Cup following a free-taking competition. Cody took issue with Matthew O’Hanlon for “roaring and bawling to the referee about his helmet” after an incident involving Richie Reid, which saw the Kilkenny player sent off.

Fitzgerald fired back: “I am just very surprised at Brian’s attitude afterwards. I could say a lot but I am not going to go on. I am a bit disappointed in the way he was. He hasn’t lost that often in the last 15 or 20 years.”

In last year’s Leinster semi-final, Fitzgerald felt he had reason to question James McGrath when Kilkenny claimed a Leinster final spot with a one-point win despite not scoring for 31 minutes and being nine points behind at one stage. “I think I’m wasting my time in this job,” he remarked before explaining, “Fair play to Kilkenny, they won and they fought back hard. I’d never have a problem with Kilkenny. I admire their style, I really admire it. The amount of frees given in one half (of the field) and they’re not given as easy in the other half. That’s fact. They disallowed Paul Morris’s point… fine after he getting thumped and reacting back. I’m disappointed in that.”

Whatever about the merit of Fitzgerald’s contention, there was method in zeroing in on a disallowed score when the margin was one.

Across the nine games, the difference has been nominal — Wexford have posted 8-63 to Kilkenny’s 5-65. Interestingly, Kilkenny have not scored a goal on five of those occasions while Wexford have been kept goalless three times.

More of the same tomorrow evening and the volume could be pumped up further.

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