Davy Fitzgerald’s numbers since taking the Wexford role will be frozen for weeks if not months but the inertia doesn’t detract from how impressive they are. According to his tally, he’s lost just 16 of 54 matches.
The draws? He doesn’t distinguish them from the wins. Maybe he merges the two because they’re underdogs but in a results business, he looks at things in black and white terms and last year’s Championship shows his team lost just once, the All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Tipperary. Kilkenny, remember, haven’t beaten Wexford in their last six contests.
Before the coronavirus protocols kicked in, Wexford had begun to be mentioned as genuine All-Ireland contenders, slightly behind Limerick. Not that the chatter mattered much to Fitzgerald.
“Being totally honest, it never bothered me one way or another whether people talk about you or don’t. It comes down to getting results and winning games. I keep it in my own head all the time - I think I’ve about 54 played and lost 16.
That’s everything I play, whether it’s Walsh Cup, League, I’m just this animal - whatever you play, you try and win it. Whatever competition. That’s the way I’ve been built. I want to win as many games as I possibly can. That’s just in my own head, how I am.
Most managers probably do the same but they wouldn’t be as upfront about it as Fitzgerald. Then again, most managers - John Kiely being one exception - wouldn’t allow their dressing rooms to turn into a disco but the Sixmilebridge man doesn’t do convention.
All the same, ask him how he announces the starting team to his players and he says, “We just name the team, one to 15, we tell them what the story is. Does it mean you’re playing here, there or every place? They know. Half of me would love to tell you exactly what the story is?”
Oh, go on. “The lads know exactly what the story is. Let’s just say, positions don’t mean too much.”
There is sophistication in his process but it’s working on simple facts that fuel Fitzgerald’s theories. Like making more of Mark Fanning’s role in goal considering he more often than not touches the ball more compared to his outfield team-mates.
“So how many times will the ball go dead in a game, for a goalie? At least between 30 and 40, in that bracket. So he has the ball in his hand 30 times at least, without the other general stuff. So that’s probably more than any other player.”
What he’d do to be between the sticks again. “With the stuff they’re doing now? Yeah. There’s different stuff happening there, it’s way different. We’ve been working on something for the last year and a half to two years - I love the opportunity to do different things. Love it, and we’ve worked very hard on it now.
“Does it always come off? No. Do we look silly at times? We do. But if you weigh it all up, we come out the better end by doing things better than we maybe used to a few years ago.”
At the same time, Fitzgerald has more appreciation for the importance of rest and a change of scenery for his players now than in his time managing Waterford and Clare. There is going to be considerable downtime for his players over the next while and it won’t have anything to do with releasing players for club month.
Speaking before the decision on Thursday to suspend all GAA games until March 29 at the earliest, he said: “I’d say most counties since December 1 are absolutely flat to the mat so you’ll probably have the bones of three or four months done so why not let them go back with their club-mates and let them go back and enjoy a bit of the league or championship. You’re after spending four months with me, a few weeks away is not a bad thing.”
Although, when things hopefully get going again and there is Championship hurling to look forward to, Fitzgerald knows teams will require a build-up.
You’d need at least three weeks coming into the Championship to have a right run at it. That’s being honest about it.