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Waterford boss Davy Fitzgerald says those who say never go back are talking ‘bulls**t’

Davy Fitzgerald has no doubts he has made the right decision to return to Waterford job

Davy Fitzgerald before the Glen Dimplex Senior Camogie All-Ireland Championship Semi-Final match between Cork and Waterford at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile© SPORTSFILE

David Fitzgerald is looking forward to a 15th season as an inter-county manager having returned for a second stint in charge of Waterford


Davy Fitzgerald is back in Waterford. Back to where it all began for him as an inter-county manager. The Clare man will tell you now that when he first landed the Déise job back in 2008, he expected to be around for maybe three months. He ended up staying for more than three years.

That appointment sparked an inter-county managerial journey that went unbroken until this season. When his time with Wexford ended in 2021, he could have kept his run of involvement going, but the offers ‘didn’t work’.

Was a return to the circuit always inevitable? “I didn’t have a clue,” he said as Londis launched its sponsorship of Ireland’s Fittest Family. “When you are out like that, you don’t actually know ... I genuinely didn’t know what was going to happen if the right opportunity presented itself.

“Last year, one or two opportunities presented (themselves) that weren’t right and didn’t work. There were one or two this year that I thought long about; there were opportunities, but this one feels right.

"Normally, I’d walk into a team and I’d have to start from square one. I don’t have to start from square one here, which is great. I’m absolutely buzzing about it.”

David Fitzgerald is looking forward to a 15th season as an inter-county manager having returned for a second stint in charge of Waterford

Fitzgerald took a year out from managing but was still deeply involved in the game, working with RTÉ as an analyst and taking a role with the Cork camogie team that reached the All-Ireland final. But he returns to the Waterford fray now a very different man from the one that first pitched up not long after his playing days had finished.

He has 14 seasons as a manager under his belt now and is the most experienced one on the circuit after Brian Cody stepped down in Kilkenny. “You get more mature with age – I hope that’s the case,” he smiled.

“You have to remember the first time I came here, I was probably in my mid-thirties, I was just finished playing. I had managed a lot of club and college and all of that, but my first gig was coming in with some of the greats – be it Ken McGrath, Dan Shanahan, Tony Browne, John Mullane, Eoin Kelly. I walked into a fair array of players – Séamus Prendergast, Declan Prendergast, Clinton Hennessy, Eoin Murphy, ‘Brick’ Walsh.

“So, I was fairly thrown in at the deep end the last time. In 2008, I was going in for three months, but I ended up there for three-and-a-half years. And with a team, I remember, certain people telling me were gone, ‘You’ll get nothing out of them’.

“We still managed to get to three Munster finals, four semi-finals, (an) All-Ireland final, so we didn’t do too bad. But when you think about it, it’s very hard to walk in and ask those players to think about the game differently. They had the way they liked things done, and I totally get that.

“It was a privilege to be able to train them, and I know some of them would look back and think, ‘That little shagger nearly ended my career’. It’s tough when you are coming to the end, but it was a learning experience, it definitely was. And I’d like to think I grew from that when I went to Clare. I grew from Clare going to Wexford and, hopefully, I’ll have matured a bit more coming in here.”

Since being confirmed as Déise boss, he’s been busy. Peter Queally, who worked with Fitzgerald during his first stint in charge, is back on board. So, too, is Eoin Kelly, who makes the jump across from Tipp to Waterford, while news also emerged that former Munster and Ireland lock Donncha O’Callaghan is on board as performance coach. And the fire burns as bright as ever.

“I’ll put it to you this way, I’m as excited as I’ve ever been. I’m as enthusiastic, I’m as energetic, I’m buzzing, I suppose. If you are feeling that way, then why not? As regards management, I’m still pretty young, I’d like to think. In my management side. I’d like to think there’s a lot of years left in me.

“The energy is still there, the enthusiasm is still there and if that’s there, why not? I want to win, I want to win every game I can.

“As I said earlier when asked about Eoin Kelly going to Waterford, we love our counties.

“Let’s make no mistake, I had to (with Clare) because I played for them for so long and managed them. But are you meant to sit on the shelf then and do nothing? Am I just meant to go away? If someone (in another county) wants me to do a job, it’s nice to be able to go and do a job, and I’m going to try my very best for Waterford, I’m going to give it everything.”

"I’m going to give it everything and no matter what the story is then, you’ll always support your own, no matter what as well.”

Fitzgerald comes into a Waterford team not quite sure of its place in the hurling landscape.

Coming out of last year’s league final, they looked best placed to challenge Limerick and like a side who were out to justify Liam Cahill’s decision not to return to Tipp.

After that, though, they tanked.

Cahill couldn’t turn down his home county again, which opened the door for Fitzgerald to return.

“I have got a very positive reaction (from Waterford people), you’ll always get that to your face, anyway. I’m under no illusions that there are a certain amount of people in Waterford will love me being back and there are a certain amount of people will think, ‘Why go back?’

“All I’ll say to them is, my record isn’t too bad normally with teams that are finding it hard to get over the line. I think I have a pretty decent CV between clubs, colleges, county. It’s not too bad. I’m very hungry. I think the way I see the game isn’t bad. I believe anything is possible.”

And what about those who say never go back?

“I reckon that’s a load of bulls**t. Who came up with that saying or what the story is, I don’t know. I don’t buy it anyhow, that’s why I’m back.”

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