Wexford officials are increasingly confident that senior hurling team manager Davy Fitzgerald will escape with just a one-match ban following his pitch incursion at Nowlan Park last Sunday.
No correspondence was forthcoming from Croke Park yesterday in relation to Fitzgerald’s actions during the Allianz Hurling League semi-final defeat against Tipperary, and what sanctions might follow.
Behind the scenes, Wexford are understood to be preparing a strong case to counter any possible eight-week suspension that could be handed down for “physical interference with an opposition player”. They are busy preparing examples of precedents where other managers encroached on the pitch, but no punishment was meted out.
And because the GAA’s Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) did not issue a proposed penalty yesterday, Wexford believe that officials at GAA HQ are somewhat unsure about how they should proceed, as they aim to avoid any potential appeal loopholes.
The worst-case scenario for Fitzgerald and Wexford is an eight-week suspension, which would see banned from the touchline for two championship games, including a potential Leinster semi-final with Kilkenny on June 10.
It’s now highly likely that Fitzgerald will face a charge relating to a breach of match regulations and while the number of games he would have to sit out is at the discretion of the GAA’s disciplinary body, they would opt for one game in that case.
Innovate Wexford Park is expected to be a heaving cauldron if, as expected, Fitzgerald’s men set up the Kilkenny clash in June.
GAA top brass are cogniscant of that and some officials would be unwilling to have Fitzgerald in the stands for a game of that magnitude, given his box-office appeal.
But they are also conscious of adhering to regulations and a match suspension is virtually certain, which would see Fitzgerald banned from the touchline for the provincial opener against a round-robin qualifier at the end of next month.
Wexford should receive some notification today and in the meantime, Fitzgerald has handed his players some time off to concentrate on club duties.
Two rounds of the local football championship and one round of hurling are pencilled in before the Wexford hurlers commence their summer campaign.
At best, Fitzgerald will see his players twice in the intervening period, and for short training sessions.
Despite Sunday’s defeat, former Wexford star Larry O’Gorman admits that the current team’s progress has rekindled memories of 1996, when the Slaneysiders swept to All-Ireland glory.
But O’Gorman also acknowledged that Wexford have a road to travel, and believes Tipp were playing within themselves last Sunday as they eased to a 12-point win.
O’Gorman said: “I know Lee Chin and these lads are team leaders but they’re not mature leaders. They’ve only been there for a couple of years and haven’t carried the bucket of water in one hand and the bucket of sand in the other.
“They haven’t experienced playing in league and Leinster finals and even with that great run in 2014, beating Clare after a replay and then Waterford, the flop came against Limerick.
“When your legs can’t carry experience, you’re in trouble. At the moment, we’re talking about the likes of Liam Ryan, Lee Chin and Conor McDonald, who played a strong part in the U21 set-up and that’s a great thing but they’re coming up against a Tipp team with the likes of Seamus Callanan, ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer and Pádraic Maher. They’ve been through the grindstone and those fellas know what it’s like to win, they have that winning feeling in their blood.”
O’Gorman also admitted that some Wexford supporters were a “little bit disappointed” by Fitzgerald’s pitch incursion.
He said: “Davy’s a winner and he’s trying to make everyone else around him a winner but a lot of people were a little bit disappointed in what happened.
“A lot of guys around me, Wexford people, Kilkenny people, Tipperary people, they were shouting ‘get off the field, let the young lads hurl.’”
And O’Gorman advised against complacency as Wexford prepare for their championship start.
O’Gorman added: “No disrespect to anybody from the round-robin but we’d want to be very careful not to think we have this in the bag.
“A lot of people are already planning the Kilkenny match in Wexford Park, how we can’t wait to get them in Wexford Park with a full sell-out but we have to play the winners of the round-robin first. That’s the kind of stuff we thought years ago coming up against Laois and other teams but we were brought back down to their level or they came out a lot hungrier.”
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