FORMER Clare hurling goalkeeper Davy Fitzgerald was appointed Waterford senior hurling manager last night, replacing Justin McCarthy, who stepped down last week.
The Waterford County Board ratified the appointment at last night’s meeting, and Fitzgerald will take his first sessions with the county this week, accompanied by former Waterford star Peter Queally and Maurice Geary as selectors. The appointment is for this championship season only.
The former goalkeeper played for Clare against Waterford in the notorious Munster final and replay of 1998, which led to some surprise at his appointment, but last night Fitzgerald was looking forward to meeting his new charges.
“I’m delighted,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s a great opportunity to test myself. I’m looking forward to working with the Waterford lads, there are a lot of good hurlers on the panel. Maybe no-one gives them a chance this season, but I’ll be working hard to get them right.”
Fitzgerald played against most of the current Waterford players but doesn’t expect past games to be an issue.
“I’d imagine there’d be mutual respect there, and if you have respect going both ways it’s a good start. That’s the way I am. I’m just looking forward now to the next two months and to working hard with the lads.”
With just one dissenting voice, the Clareman was last night voted in as manager, and he’s expected to meet with the entire panel of players within 24 hours.
“He is fully determined to get the very best out of the players, and having looked at and listened to his plans, I think it is going to be a very exciting championship season from here on for Waterford,’’, said Waterford chairman Pat Flynn.
“I firmly believe that he can do a very good job, that he can re-launch our challenge for All-Ireland glory, and I have full confidence in him.”
Flynn added that despite all of the traumatic events of the last week, which saw the players successfully launch their heave to oust McCarthy, they have remained fully focussed and are aware of the huge responsibility they have now put on themselves by their own actions. “They are ready to give it a right go and so too is the new manager,” he added.
On a night when all of the focus was on the appointment of the new boss, the contribution made to Waterford hurling over the past seven years by Justin McCarthy was not overlooked.
The chairman said that it fell to him to convey to the former Cork All-Ireland star that a number of the players no longer had confidence in him, and without a moment’s hesitation he (McCarthy) acknowledged that his position had become untenable. “Later that day,” the chairman added, “I received confirmation of his resignation.’’.
Describing him as “a magnificent servant of Waterford hurling’’ for the past seven years, and a man who is owed a huge debt of gratitude by the hurling people of the county, Mr Flynn thanked Justin and his family for all they had done for hurling in the Decies.
He also dismissed some media reports of the massive money he was supposedly being paid to manage the county hurling team, insisting that he was only paid “normal” travelling expenses the same as everyone else.
Mount Sion delegate Phil Fanning said that as one who had opposed the reappointment of Justin McCarthy, he was taken aback at the events of last week. “We have been made look ridiculous all over the country,’’ he said.
Kilrossanty delegate Tony Coffey aid Justin McCarthy had been a “wonderful ambassador’’ for Waterford hurling, reminding the meeting that it was not that many years ago when Waterford lost to Kerry in the first round of the Munster championship at Walsh Park.
“We have come a long way from that debacle under Justin and under his namesake Gerald before him,” he added.
One of the board’s longer serving delegates, Tommy Mooney of the Kill club, asked will the players, in time, rebel in the same way against the new manager as they did against the former one. “The day players start dictating then administration is out the door’, said Mr Mooney.
Delegates also agreed to the recommendation to appoint former star Peter Queally of Ballydurn and Ballyduff Upper’s Maurice Geary, who led his club to the county senior hurling championship title in 2007, as selectors with the manager.
Team trainer Gerry Fitzpatrick, who has had the panel for sessions last Saturday and last night, is expected to remain in his key post, but along with McCarthy, his assistant Nicky Cashin and selectors Seamie Hannon and Michael Ryan have also resigned.
Since the early 1990s Davy Fitzgerald has coached teams with his Sixmilebridge club, and while still an intercounty player he trained the Clare U21 hurlers. He has also guided Limerick Institute of Technology to two Fitzgibbon Cup titles in 2005 and 2007, and this year coached Nenagh Éire Óg club team in Tipperary.
In the past, he has trained Boherlahan-Dualla, Mullinahone and the Tipperary camogie team.
Last year he was mentioned in connection with the Tipperary hurling manager post following the departure of Michael ‘Babs’ Keating, but that job eventually went to Liam Sheedy.
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