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Fitzgerald: 'I'd like to be able to set them on the road'
By Cian O'Connell
Davy Fitzgerald had a decision to make. On Wednesday September 21 Fitzgerald stepped down as Clare manager. It wasn't long before Wexford enquired about his availability and willingness to remain on the inter-county beat.
Following a brief period of reflection Fitzgerald was unveiled as Wexford's new boss on October 7. "As you've probably read, I would have liked the break and, trust me, the break wouldn't have done me any harm, I know that myself," Fitzgerald commented during an engaging interview at the launch for the Leinster GAA Bord Na Mona Walsh and O'Byrne Cups on Thursday.
"When Diarmuid Devereux came to me, the Chairman of Wexford, I turned him down, I said I don't think I can do this.
"Now, when I got talking to him and I started to get enthusiastic. I seen where he felt Wexford were - they had players, they had talent, but needed just a different direction or something. And they were so passionate about it.
"It just made me think twice. It made me think that it would be great if another team could join the top ranks.
"I don't think Wexford have been in the top ranks. Just that bug bit you again. I was all in my head saying 'OK, it's time for a little time out' so, I'm there for a year or two and going to give it everything I can and would definitely envisage after that that it will be time out, I would definitely say that.
"But you never know what happens in this game, do you?"
The journey from Clare to Wexford is taxing, but already Fitzgerald is taking nuggets of satisfaction from the response of his new panel.
"It's easy to say you'll do a job when you haven't seen the journey," Fitzgerald laughs."Having got stuck into the journey, it's a nice drive, I'll tell you. You could be looking at 2:45 to three hours.
"What I'm doing at the moment is leaving at 2pm, arriving down around 5pm for training at 7pm. Then I leave again around 10pm or 10.30pm, so you're back home around 1am.
Davy Fitzgerald pictured before the Wexford SHC Final in October.
"It's a long day. It is a tough journey. That's why you couldn't commit to anything over two years because it's just such a journey.
"I want to go in and hopefully do my best for them. They're an absolutely lovely bunch to work with. Have they work to do? They have. Liam Dunne did a good job with them, but they need to go to another level.
"Mentally, they need to go to another level. Hurling wise, they need to go to another level. So, hopefully, I'll be able to help them with that.
"The track is tough and with other business interests and my health, I just have to be careful with what I'm doing."
The appeal was there for Fitzgerald, who acknowledges similarities to when he took charge of his native Clare. "Yeah, that was 100 per cent a lot of the reason," Fitzgerald says. "I saw it similar to Clare.
"I'd be very funny, I'd be a GAA person that loves to see a team do something that hasn't done it in a while.
"If you look at most of my CV, back with the club teams I worked with or any of them. A lot of the teams I've won with have done it out of no place.
"The joy that you get from seeing that, from seeing a team doing something that they're not meant to do - that kind of buzz is always there with you in saying 'can I make a difference?'
"That was it. I saw them as very much the same as Clare and I'd love to see them back competing for big time honours, they haven't been for a while."
When Clare were reigning All Ireland champions in 2014 Fitzgerald saw exactly what Wexford can achieve during two gripping qualifier matches. "Listen, they're a mad, fanatical GAA people down there. You could see from those few games, Jeez, there was some atmosphere down there.
"Even when we went down in the League last year, they're fanatical. I think they just want to be involved in big days and I'd love to bring them to one or two if I could."
Davy Fitzgerald attended the Leinster GAA Series Launch at Croke Park.
Does Fitzgerald feel that he has to prove himself once more? "I was always wary when we won in 2013 what was coming," Fitzgerald states.
"Thats being honest. When youre up there, you know there is only way things can go. Unless youre Brian Cody every now and again he gets a tickler too which is unreal. Which I find absolutely the most amusing thing ever, that people can have a go at him."
Jack Guiney's return to the Wexford camp is a boost according to Fitzgerald. "I went to him, we just had a chat, I went to a lot of them and I went to him and talked to him," Fitzgerald reveals.
"He was grand to talk to. He spoke nothing but good actually about Liam Dunne to tell you the truth even, it was all good. When I said it to him what I was about doing and I asked him, I said 'this is what I'm going doing and I need you to be just the same as any of the rest of the lads'.
"It wasn't a problem. There hasn't been a problem. He has a good bit of stuff done already. Unfortunately he got a hamstring injury the other day so he's just missing a bit, he has done a good bit on his own as well.