Davy Fitzgerald: ‘There’s great people in Clare, that’s all I’ll say to you’

Davy Fitzgerald: ‘There’s great people in Clare, that’s all I’ll say to you’

Davy Fitzgerald at the Marie Keating Foundation’s Give Bladder Cancer the Red Card event yesterday. Pic: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Davy Fitzgerald has insisted that there is no more at stake than the National League points ahead of Wexford’s trip to Ennis on Sunday.

Fitzgerald’s return to his native Clare is just one of a number of intriguing talking points ahead of the Division 1, Group B encounter.

There is the revenge factor for starters given that it was Clare that dumped Wexford out of last year’s Championship.

Clare also need to bounce back with a big performance after being shocked by Antrim last weekend.

Fitzgerald himself managed Clare to All-Ireland glory in 2013, three years before being deemed surplus to requirements by a group of players.

More recently, there have been reports of divisions and difficulties within Clare hurling while the Sixmilebridge club complained earlier this year about consistent abuse — both ‘online and in person’ — of Davy and his father Pat, the Clare GAA secretary.

“I think you know my story on that,” said Fitzgerald of the recent turbulence, speaking at the Marie Keating Foundation’s Give Bladder Cancer the Red Card event.

“I’d prefer not to comment on it because no matter whether you say good or bad, you’re going to be taken up in a particular way and do you know what? I have no interest in it. 

There’s great people in Clare, that’s all I’ll say to you, really good. We’ll just let it play out whatever it is. That’s the way I look at it and I’m not going to get involved in anything that’s been said.”

But surely it will be a charged atmosphere on Sunday, laced with tension?

“No, this is another league game to us. People will like to build up as something else because it’s Clare. We have Clare this weekend, we have Kilkenny the following weekend and we have a break, so we have two massive weekends ahead of us.

“The way I look at it, this weekend will be like Championship. And we need to get ready for Championship in six or seven weeks. We’re going to give it 110%. Obviously you (media) will probably make a bit more out of it seeing as it’s Clare we’re playing, that’s the way it is.”

What Fitzgerald can say with relative certainty is that Clare will throw ‘the kitchen sink’ at Wexford. Because they generally do.

“Any time over the last few years we’ve played Clare, they absolutely rise it unreal playing Wexford,” he noted.

Fitzgerald’s message will be a simple one, that they need to be on it for 70-plus minutes. That they weren’t when the teams met in last year’s Championship and it cost them. That’s why Fitzgerald was so piqued by his players dropping down a gear against Laois early in the second half last weekend.

“For Wexford to compete, they have to be ferocious in their workrate and we weren’t for that 15 minutes,” he said. “So that was my point.”

Fitzgerald has previously spoken about his team perhaps leaving their best form on the club fields around Wexford last summer. By autumn and winter they were jaded, turning in tackle counts in the 40s for the Championship games against Galway and Clare when typically it had been ‘between 95 and 105’ per game.

His gut feeling was that the players hadn’t done themselves justice and he couldn’t walk away.

“We actually had a very good league in 2020, the only thing that didn’t finish right for us were the last two games, we weren’t competitive. I like to be competitive, whatever else, I like to be competitive. That’s important to me. 

“I thought about it for the night after playing Clare, I was back in Lahinch that night after Clare beating us, stayed back there with my wife Sharon and spent a good lot of the night awake. I had my decision made (to stay) by early the next morning.”

Despite how 2020 finished up, Fitzgerald described managing Wexford as his most enjoyable period in hurling.

He’s optimistic about this season too, though is frustrated that the new advantage rule may slow down games in general and make them less enjoyable.

Referees have been ordered to only play advantage in two situations — if a goal is on or if the fouled player ‘is clear and has time and space’ — and the fear is that it’ll mean more frees in games.

“Don’t let it progress on into the year,” urged Fitzgerald. “There is no point. Everybody knows. I think the people would be better just to admit that we tried it, it didn’t work. Let’s just go back. Maybe leave it a week or two again but in my own mind, I am nearly close to 100% saying that this isn’t going to work.”

- To mark Bladder Cancer Awareness Month this May, Davy Fitzgerald has teamed up with the Marie Keating Foundation and Roche Products (Ireland) Ltd to ‘Give Bladder Cancer the Red Card’. The awareness campaign aims to encourage men — who are three times more likely to be diagnosed than women — to know the warning signs such as blood in the urine, and get help if needed. See mariekeating.ie/redcard for info.

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