Wexford joint-captain Matthew O’Hanlon has insisted that the players want Davy Fitzgerald back and will gladly drive to Sixmilebridge again to beg him to stay on. O’Hanlon was part of a delegation of Wexford players that drove to Fitzgerald’s home after the 2018 Championship and implored him to remain in charge.
It worked a treat as Fitzgerald later admitted that the emotional plea convinced him to overlook ‘something else that was in the pipeline’ and commit to Wexford for a third season. He duly guided Wexford to a breakthrough Leinster title success before coming up just short of eventual All-Ireland winners Tipperary in the semi-finals.
Asked if the Wexford players would consider hitting the road to Clare again, O’Hanlon said: “Oh yeah, completely. We’re willing to do whatever it takes to get our man back. Look, he knows how highly we regard him and how much we respect him.
"That’s why you can see in some of our games the emotion that is there, because the bond has been built up over the last three years. It’s something special and it’s something we don’t want to lose.”
Fitzgerald said after Wexford’s Championship exit that he was unsure if he could give the commitment to stay on for 2020.
But he also acknowledged an unbreakable bond with a group of players he believes can win an All-Ireland.
“The bond that we have with him is something special,” said O’Hanlon.
“But Davy has to weigh it up. The commute from Clare to Wexford isn’t easy and he would have spoken about it before. I was part of that group last year that went down, it’s one of those roads that happens to avoid any main motorway. But as I said, we’re hopeful, we really want him back and I think he knows that. All of the players, other backroom staff and the county board are firmly behind him. So the door is open to come back and we’re really hoping that he does.”
Wexford were five points up against 14-man Tipp at one stage in the second half of their semi-final but couldn’t see it through.
“It’s obviously going to be fuel to the fire for us to come back,” said O’Hanlon. “It’ll be used in our training and motivation for next season. The big thing is that it gives us the belief that we’re able to compete at this level.
“It’s the first time for our group to get to the last four and we’re walking away from it disappointed that we didn’t go further. Yeah, look, there are elements of the game where we’d be savagely disappointed and there were opportunities that we missed.
“But I’d be looking at the positives and going, ‘This is our opportunity to kick-on and to show everyone and prove to everyone that we’re able to compete at this level consistently’.”
***The Road Safety Authority (RSA), Gaelic Players’ Association (GPA) and Women’s Gaelic Players’ Association (WGPA) have announced a three-year collaboration to promote road safety awareness. Initially, focusing on reducing the incidences of two killler behaviours on Irish roads - using a mobile phone while driving and driver fatigue. Together, the three organisations hope to help drive behavioural change among a younger cohort of road users.