Davy Fitzgerald has defended his record in inter-county management, describing critics who think a “circus” follows him wherever he goes as “stupid”.
That so-called circus almost rolled up in Galway last week though having thought for a period the job was his, Fitzgerald was ultimately pipped at the post by Henry Shefflin.
The Clare man knows some will feel Galway made the right choice, that critics believe he comes to any position with baggage, though he pointed to the bottom line of his results over the years.
“There was that frenzy last week with Galway, there was a lot of attention,” said Fitzgerald. “Some people saying, ‘Why would you get Davy, with the circus that comes with him?’ Some people would say that — some stupid people. I just go on results. I like getting results and I think I’ve done pretty well on that.”
Fitzgerald’s record in inter-county management stretches over the last 14 seasons to the middle of 2008, when he was parachuted in to manage Waterford. Shefflin, meanwhile, will be jumping into an inter-county hotseat for the first time. It’s a gamble, though the 2013 All-Ireland winning manager, for his part, doesn’t hold any grudges with Shefflin, praising the Kilkenny icon for not simply waiting until Brian Cody departs the Cats.
“Is Henry meant to just sit there and do nothing? Is he meant to wait for Brian Cody? My honest opinion is that Brian Cody shouldn’t be going any place, I think he’s doing a really good job.
“In sport nowadays, between certain media and certain supporters, if they don’t get a win it’s, ‘Get rid of the manager’. But what Brian Cody has achieved is second to none, why should they get rid of him?
“Now, should they have someone ready to take over from him? I think Brian is smart enough that he knows that if he wants to finish in a year or two, he’d have someone ready.
“Would Henry probably be one of them? Definitely. But why should Henry sit around and do nothing now? He’s managed Ballyhale, he’s a good lad and if he’s able to go in and do a job and if he can do it for Galway, then why not?”
Where Fitzgerald goes from here himself will be almost as intriguing. The last time he stepped away from inter-county activity, for a few months in 2007, he threw himself into golf, practising for “12, 13, maybe 14 hours” a day and pulling off a memorable win in that year’s South of Ireland championship over top amateur Cian Curley.
“Yeah, I’d say that’s one of his biggest nightmares ever,” smiled Fitzgerald, who confirmed he won’t be jumping back into competitive golf. He reckons he’ll continue working with the Sixmilebridge seniors, in some capacity, and there’ll be plenty of TV work with the Londis-sponsored Ireland’s Fittest Family on RTÉ and the second series of Davy’s Toughest Team.
“Health-wise it probably is a good move not to be driving as much and putting myself under as much pressure,” said Fitzgerald, who left Wexford after five seasons in July. “It’s going to be a lot different though. Am I nervous about what January, February, and March will bring? I am kind of nervous a small bit. I know I have stuff to do but I have no inter-county team to be with, which is the first time since 1989.”
The former goalkeeper hasn’t ruled out returning to another county job. Presuming he’s unlikely to go back to Wexford, Clare or Waterford, and with Tipperary, Cork, and Kilkenny unlikely to appoint an outsider, could somewhere like Antrim be an option? He has close links with the Dunloy club.
“There’s no hiding the fact that I have a massive grá for Antrim,” said Fitzgerald, stressing the fact that Darren Gleeson is currently in the role and making solid progress. “Down the line if I can help them with anything, I’ve a lot of good friends up there, I certainly will. Never say never to anything. Whatever will happen, will happen.”
Fitzgerald says he has some business interests that will keep him occupied too, while his uncle John will need help on the local farm. “He has the farm down the road, which I’ve neglected a bit. I’m going to have to get my ass in gear.”
There will be time to reflect on his five seasons with Wexford, the highpoint of which was the 2019 Leinster title and pushing Tipperary so close in the All-Ireland semi-finals.
“Even this year, we probably played as well as we had ever played with Wexford, especially against Kilkenny. I thought that match was as good a match as there was in the hurling Championship. The hitting, the amount of variety of play, the tactical stuff, it was deadly. We were there or thereabouts.”