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Davy Fitzgerald calls on GAA to relax 10-day training camp rule in April

Fitzgerald feels changing the rule would benefit the students in his squad around exam time.

Bord na Móna Leinster GAA Series Launch Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald pictured at the launch of the Bord Na Móna Leinster GAA series. Source: Matt Browne/SPORTSFILE

WEXFORD BOSS DAVY Fitzgerald is largely in favour of the new provincial hurling championship structures, but believes it could be even better with a couple of tweaks.

Five-team round robin formats are coming into bothLeinster and Munster in 2018, with three counties to advance from both provinces and into the All-Ireland series.

Fitzgerald is concerned about his team playing on four consecutive weekends during the initial phase, and feels introducing an extra bye-week would ease the burden on his players.

“The format of the championship? I like it, I really do,” he says. “You take Munster and you take Clare, the last time I think we’d a Munster championship match there would have been 1993, that’s a long time. I love that, the fact that the atmosphere around the town will be unreal. It will help the town. Then you look at the kids.

“It’s the same below in Wexford. Last year when we played Kilkenny down in Wexford it was incredible. The only thing I’d tweak in it a small bit is I think running it in five weeks is just a small bit (rushed). If it was six weeks where you get one more break in it, I think it would be great. That’s the only thing.

“We’ve a three week gap between the last match of the round robin and the final. I would have loved for them to push it out for one more week. We’ve a four week run, we’ve Dublin, then we’ve Offaly, a massive match against Galway and then the following week you’re coming out and playing Kilkenny who have the week before it off. All I’m saying is make it six weeks, which isn’t a big ordeal.

Davy Fitzgerald Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“We have a savage Leinster championship next year,” he continues.

“I love the fact we’re getting to play four big games. The only problem is you could be out of the championship in the first or second week of June, you could be gone completely.

“But you can’t have it every way. I understand that you have to take care of the club players too. I actually think they’ve made a good fist of it and I don’t think they’ve got the credit they deserve for it. In April, when you play club championship or you play league, I don’t think it matters.”

In Mayo last week, it was suggested that Stephen Rochford was planning a warm-weather training camp for the middle of April and wouldn’t be making club players available during the month.

But training camps are forbidden by the GAA after the league finals unless there are within 10 days of a championship game. The Irish Indepdendent reported yesterday the mooted Mayo camp is now off the table.

While Fitzgerald believes the clubs should be given access to county players in April, he feels the 10-day rule should be relaxed to allow inter-county teams jet off immediately after the club-only weeks.

“I think the clubs would be happy to get back the players for a few weeks and certainly we’re going to give them back to the clubs for a few weeks in April, Wexford hurlers are anyway,” he says.

Davy Fitzgerald speaks to his team before the game Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“It’s very important that you give the few weeks in April. If you look at the 1st, 8th, 15th and 22nd, that’s four weekends that’s (free) as far as I know. If you get to the league final I think it’s at the end of March anyway. So that last week is there as well.

“So you’ve three or four weeks, which I think most clubs would respect, that if they wanted to go away in April I think this has got to be relaxed.

“Because a lot of students have exams coming into the second or third week of May. So we’re playing championship on the 20th and on the second or third week (of May) they’ve exams.

“Anyone that goes away on training camp will tell you, you’ve a lot of downtime. You might train once, twice or three times a day, but then for the rest of the day you’re resting because you have to rest.

“It’s a great opportunity for them to get a bit of study in. Because the exams are coming up and we could have 11 or 12 guys in Wexford doing them.

“They’ve played their club, they’re going away and you can get a good bit of stuff done in a week, and then they’ve to go and do their exams so you’ve actually covered everything. I just think a bit of common sense would prevail.

“If you go away for five or six days after the club, trust me, and we did it last year – we went away after the club, gave up three weekends to the clubs last year and then went away for six days.

“I got so much done in the six days. It kind of tops up everything. You kind of do a period at the start, which we would have done in December and January. Then you just maintain that for a lot of what’s happening during the league.

“Then you just need a top up maybe for a week or a week and a half, if you get that you just maintain away then again and you’ll be grand.”

Fitzgerald confirmed that Colm Kehoe has committed to the hurling panel this coming year after spending 2017 with the county footballers, while defender James Breen has stepped away due to his farming work.

“I’d say he (Breen) was feeling it and when you are working on a big farm all day, it’s tough, to go away then and train in the evening is very hard. Look, I understand that and I couldn’t say a bad word about him, he’s a great lad. And you never know, we might convince him back again at some stage.”

Rory O'Connor Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Talented forward Rory O’Connor is Wexford’s biggest injury concern at the moment. The St Martin’s star underwent surgery to fix a knee problem yesterday and is expected to miss between eight and 12 weeks.

“Unfortunately we are going to miss him probably for a big portion of the league. I think you could see last year he is a nice talent, he’s a good talent.

“For a young 18 year-old he did a good job last year. He’s very clued in. I was talking to him late last night and obviously he wasn’t looking forward to it today but he knows he has to do it.

“I’ve a lot of injuries at the moment. Rory is out, Shaun Murphy – who played in the pocket last year – is out.”

Murphy hurt his Achilles, while Jack Guiney and Paul Morris are also sidelined with injuries.

Wexford begin their Bord na Móna Walsh Cup campaign against Carlow on 3 January.

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