Ducking the issue of Sunday’s performance, Davy Fitzgerald seized the underdog factor, writes PM O’Sullivan.
Another week, another round of Davy Fitzgerald-driven hoopla.
That insistent voice: “Will I get slammed for saying what I do? I do but I don’t care, I don’t care. I want to see change.”
Hurling’s version of vaudeville shuffles across the stage.
For anyone back from holidaying on Planet Jupiter, let me gloss. Michael Duignan and Henry Shefflin and the inadequacies of pundits who have not been manager for a senior All-Ireland triumph… Messing and negativity and knocking the little fish… That class of a trailing cadence, ribbons of disbelief.
Cold summary: No-one is allowed to criticise Fitzgerald and his doings, not unless that someone is as brilliant and as successful as the man himself.
Ah yeah… Whatever your tipple.
But not the usual line to follow, mind you.
With Davy Fitzgerald, you could easily make up this stuff, dream it up 24/7 with the nonchalance of Roger Federer nailing a passing shot. The current Wexford manager possesses a funny record as regards logic.
Still and all, he remains the Ilie Nastase of smokescreens, a master of obfuscation via unpleasantness. Last Sunday, Wexford performed poor to middling for the second championship outing in a row, which is a major boo boo. What aspect stayed front and centre after Fitzgerald’s press conference?
D’ass roight: Some supposed call Michael Duignan did not make on the telly. Here be cleverness in the losing guise of cuteness.
This figure devours oxygen, into the bargain. Everyone else’s achievements gutter.
Item: Tipperary and Waterford made the All Ireland semi-finals for the third season on the trot (fourth season, former case). Such consistency, especially for Waterford, is considerable. This season hardly saw so much upheaval as claimed, which must count as a talking point.
Not hear that angle? Me neither. Vaudeville drives out insight.
Each championship game is a rolling audit on guiding principles. An acquaintance met a Wexford first team player last week. the same acquaintance likes a punt and put the question: “Any point in having a few quid on ye as outsiders?” The reply was a click: “Nah… Not enough gas left in the tank. We trained so hard early in the year, nearly every day in January. The A team has played the B team in training four times, and the A team didn’t win once.”
Ducking the issue of Sunday’s performance, Fitzgerald seized the underdog factor: “If they want the same one or two teams to play hurling and be successful, that’s fine. Myself and Derek [McGrath] are trying to bring teams to the fore that haven’t been to the fore in a long time.”
Yes, Kilkenny or Tipperary were senior champions in 10 of the last 11 seasons. Managed by You Know Who So You Do, Clare in 2013 proved the only exception.
At the same time, Clare did not meet Kilkenny or Tipperary that year. Plain fact offsets any underdog dividend. The current Wexford manager might as well be waving a colander at a waterfall.
Like everyone else, I admire Davy Fitzgerald for going round the country as a GAA volunteer for expenses or less. To an extent, he has been Buff Egan ]avant la lettre.
Equally, I have never had any dealings with Davy Fitzgerald, direct or indirect, good, bad or indifferent. Hurling is my concern, in a small way of going.
Careful analysis, however unwelcome, indicates Davy Fitzgerald will never get the best out of a group of hurlers. Forwards in particular will deteriorate under his regime. Item: Conor McDonald’s decreasing impact over the summer. He is heading the same way as went Darach Honan, Conor McGrath, and Shane O’Donnell.
What is the point of having backs bombing up from defence to get the odd score if forwards are being marginalised? What is the point of getting Diarmuid O’Keeffe and Liam Ryan on the scoreboard if Lee Chin is playing so deep as to neutralise his attacking threat?
This craic is like mistaking apple peelings for an apple, like mistaking one season’s results for sustainable improvement.
Compare the manner in which Patrick Horgan currently thrives under Kieran Kingston’s regime. Horgan is hurling with far more application and gusto. Knock on effect? The Cork forwards are acting as a defensive shield, obviating the need for an extra defender.
We have travelled this road before. Sweeper-based hurling is another inflection of running hurling, an approach centred on hyper fitness, pace and overlaps.
Depending on the quality of hurler available to a particular camp in a particular season, this type of hurling can win matches. It can even win All-Irelands, as per Galway in 1987 and 1988. Yet the great Kevin Cashman’s summary? ‘The Jennet Express.’ Why was he correct? Because such hurling slights the principle of economy. Galway should have won at least two more All-Irelands with that team.
The same express is back with snazzier livery. All the while, Fitzgerald remains a poor coach of forwards where movement and touch are concerned, a poor coach of backs where tackling is concerned. Look at his overall record, away from the hype and the pan stick and the spotlights.
Whistling into the wind and similar activities… End of day, Fitzgerald will not countenance even practical objections.
He wants change in a near existential sense and stated when interviewed by John Harrington in June 2017: “They’re afraid. Change almost seems to affect them, whatever part of life it is, whether it’s stuff in business, your general life or sport, some people are afraid of change.”
Does this splice of New Age nostrums and aggressive self absorption not leave Davy Fitzgerald a cross between Paulo Coehlo and Paulie Walnuts? Tony Soprano’s henchman summed up his perspective: “You’re a little too worried about what I give you. Worry a little more about what you give me.”
Sound like anyone?
For audiences who enjoy vaudeville, the coming years will be — is ‘tantalising’ the word? Quite so. Hurling has years of this hoopla to run.
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