The Ballygunner man, in scintillating form during his club’s march to the recent All-Ireland club semi-final defeat against Ballyhale, has not played for the county since the 2020 All-Ireland final against Limerick.
Speaking after his side’s Munster League defeat of Tipperary in Mallow, the Waterford manager admitted: “We have two very good lads in with us (Billy Nolan and Shaun O’Brien) but, yes, we’ve also invited Stephen to join the panel.
“We talked to Stephen a while back, asking him to rejoin the panel. Whether he does or not, we’ll know in the next few weeks. If he does, it’ll be great to have him. Obviously, you’re going to ask the best players in Waterford.”
Reflecting on their 0-21 to 1-15 defeat of Tipp, he observed: “It’s only January and this is a million miles away from what’s going to happen in Semple Stadium in May, probably. So I wouldn’t read a whole lot into it.
“I think there’s probably 12 or 13 lads who played championship last year that weren’t out there, so fellas were trying to put up their hands and say, ‘Look, I want to be part of this thing!’ That’s what I will take from this.
“Do I take anything from Tipperary tonight? No. The game could as easily have gone their way as ours.
Asked what he is looking for from this Munster League, Fitzgerald offered a one-word reply: “Character”.
“The lads would have been disappointed with how they finished one or two championship games last year, so we know there are certain aspects we’ve got to work on over the next two years.”
“This isn’t a project that’s going to work straight away in a few months. We’ve laid out where we need to go and it’s going to take a small bit of time to get there. They know that and I know it.
“But we have time. We’ve lads at a good age. We’re not under any pressure.”
Fitzgerald kept special mention for the contribution of substitute Kilrossanty’s Paudie Fitzgerald whose two late points were pivotal in getting Waterford over the line against Tipp.
“He wasn’t feeling well the last few days, but I needed him to go on because we had an injury” explained Fitzgerald. “And when he went on he did well, having played an under-20 final yesterday.
“He’s a young lad, fair play to him. Paudie in the next few years will be deadly.
“The big thing I’m happy about is the character, because there’s very little between ourselves and Tipp. I think Liam (Cahill) will be happy enough because they were right there at the end too. They had six or seven new lads out, I had five fellas making their debuts.”
Asked if he enjoyed being back on the inter-county hurling line, he smiled ‘Ah, it’s great to be back! You’d miss it like. The year out was great. It was great to be a pundit and all that, but I kind of like being out there too.
“I felt we were in control for most of the second-half, but then they got momentum with Jason Forde’s goal and you think ‘Trouble!’ But we got it back again.
“That said, I’m not an idiot. It’s the third of January! But I think it was competitive out there even if we won’t read too much into it.”
Fitzgerald revealed that the returning Ballygunner players will be assessed this week, 18-year-old Patrick Fitzgerald among them.