Waterford legend John Mullane admits his relationship with former manager Davy Fitzgerald remains “awkward and stand-offish”.
Tensions developed between the pair following alleged comments by Fitzgerald — who was then Clare boss — that Mullane was finished ahead of the 2012 Munster championship meeting of the counties.
Waterford won the game, with Mullane celebrating wildly in front of the Clare bench at the full-time whistle.
Fitzgerald, speaking to Clare FM the week after, accused Mullane of being “a small bit gullible” to believe his former manager had made such a statement.
He also expressed disappointment with his triumphalism at the game’s end. Three years on and Mullane says the matter has never been properly resolved.
“I was genuinely taken aback and upset by the comments that were seen to be passed to another player’s father,” Mullane told GAA.ie yesterday.
“The person who did tell me at the time would be an honourable person and I was taken aback because I felt I was after giving four and a half years to Davy.
“It did give me motivation and it ticked me off to go out and give a performance, but naturally there was some disappointment at the way I reacted after the final whistle.
“I do regret celebrating in that way, but these things do happen in that way and there was a huge media reaction. It was spur of the moment stuff.” He is, however, still hopeful their impasse can be worked out.
“I’ve come across Davy since then and it can be a bit awkward and stand-offish but we never really got the opportunity to thrash it out. Hopefully one day that opportunity will arise.”
The 34-year old spent 12 years operating in the county colours and admits his “enormous” dedication to the game affected his family.
“The hardest part for me was coming back year in, year out. I was coming from a level of being considered a nobody and getting up to All Star form. Trying to stay at All Star form and not letting those levels drop takes an enormous effort and a huge amount of work throughout the course of your career, and that is mentally draining. It wears you down and it has a big impact on your life outside hurling.
“I was the type of lad who spent any day off I had preparing for the next day’s training. Basically, I had no idea how to switch off.
“I had two young kids then as well and it was having a major impact on them and I didn’t want that for the future.”
Mullane won many fans for not challenging the ban incurred for his dismissal in the 2004 Munster final for striking Cork’s Brian Murphy. He still maintains it was the honourable thing to do.
“From 2002 to 2004, I was young and I was having a tough time both on and off the field. Anything that could have gone wrong was going wrong and within those years I felt I just couldn’t get a break. I got sent off, but at the time there were an awful lot of people going the other route of challenging suspensions through the courts. The opportunity was there for me to go down that route, but I always felt that if you do the crime, you have to do the time.
“I felt I had a duty to be an honourable GAA man. I had done wrong and I felt it wouldn’t have been right to have played in an All-Ireland semi-final, knowing I had done wrong.”
Although having won four of his five All Star awards in the full-forward line, Mullane can’t envisage carrying out his corner-forward role in the current system handed down by his brother-in-law Derek McGrath.
“It’s a question I am being asked a lot and I often ask myself where I would fit into that system. Could I see myself being in the full-forward line playing a lone role with two or three backs around me? No, I couldn’t.
“For me, it was all about running into the corner, winning your own battle, taking your man on and getting your scores. That was my way of doing it for the team.”
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