Kilkenny great Jackie Tyrrell has offered an insight into Davy Fitzgerald’s unorthodox management methods, revealing his old Limerick IT manager once ordered the players to run through bushes to surprise their opponents.
Tyrrell was full-back on the LIT side Fitzgerald managed to the 2007 Fitzgibbon Cup title and said playing for the Clare man was rarely dull. Wexford manager Fitzgerald will be banned from the sideline again for tomorrow evening’s crucial Leinster championship semi-final clash with Kilkenny and is expected to communicate with his management from the stand.
Asked if he ever came across any of Fitzgerald’s ‘alternative’ management methods, nine-time All-Ireland medallist Tyrrell smiled.
“That’s a nice way of saying it, alternative! One year, we arrived at a game with LIT, togged out, and were meant to come out of the dressing-rooms a certain way but we parked up the bus and we actually ran through the bushes at the far side.
“The other team weren’t expecting it at all. I was part of that brigade that day. He had all kinds of different ways of doing things.
“When Davy asks you to do something, you do it, no matter how outlandish it is.”
Fitzgerald has enjoyed instant success with Wexford whom he took over just days after stepping down as Clare manager after last year’s Championship. The Clare players appeared to feel things had gone stale and predictable under Fitzgerald but Wexford immediately bought into his sweeper system and achieved promotion to Division 1A after just four rounds of the league. They then pulled off a comprehensive quarter-final win over Kilkenny before keeping pace with All-Ireland holders Tipperary for an hour of their semi-final.
“I would imagine if I was a hurler in a county that’s maybe middle tier and if I was thinking of going off to America for the following summer to hurl, and if I hear Davy Fitz is appointed, I’d be thinking: ‘Ah, I’m going to give this a year or two, see where this goes’,” said Tyrrell.
“You just know he’s going to bring something different to it. You don’t know what that is at the time but you just know it’s going to be something different from years before. You can see that in Wexford already. You could be doing anything with him but it will be interesting, that’s for sure.”
Tyrrell said he personally detests the use of sweepers in hurling and argued it’s only acceptable in Wexford’s case if it’s a temporary measure, to build confidence and rack up some wins after a difficult few years.
“It drives me crazy,” said Tyrrell. “I was a defender and I think defending is such a skill and an art and what a sweeper does is it lets defenders away with murder in some cases. It takes the real risk out of it whereas I remember going for balls thinking, ‘If you miss this ball it could be a goal or a point’. I think there’s a lovely edginess about that. From a defender’s point of view, I think it’s an easy opt out. I do think there’s a role for it in terms of teams developing and building their confidence. I’d be looking at Waterford now, for example, and I’d be hoping they don’t play a sweeper, that they just go at it.
“They’ve played the sweeper and it’s brought them to a stage where they’ve developed players, they’ve built up that confidence, but let’s have a go now.”
Tyrrell said Cork’s unsuccessful experiment with a seventh defender in 2016 should be a warning to other counties thinking of going down that route.
“Any team with aspirations...like, Limerick shouldn’t be going with a sweeper,” said Tyrrell. “They should have a real plan this year that’s not just ‘Oh, we’ve lost a game and conceded two or three goals, let’s default to a sweeper’. You don’t learn anything from that. It’s just a safety net. Cork played a sweeper last year against Tipperary in the Championship and it didn’t work. He was nowhere near Seamus Callanan who did untold damage. Cork learned from it and went man on man this year with supposedly a poor defence and turned over Tipp. That’s development.”
Jackie Tyrrell was speaking at the Littlewoods Ireland sponsorship of the GAA All-Ireland senior hurling championship.
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