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Davy Fitz: Daily commute did for me in the end

Waterford boss says he has “no regrets whatsoever” as he steps down from post.

Image: ©INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan

IN THE END, it wasn’t the thrashing by Tipperary or the anonymous late-night phone calls that did for Davy Fitz. It was the daily 200-mile round-trip from his native Clare to Waterford that convinced him to pack it in.

Last night, the All-Ireland winning goalkeeper announced his decision to step down as Waterford senior hurling boss after three and a half years at the helm, saying that he had “no regrets whatsoever.”

The Sixmilebridge man led the Déise to a Munster championship, three All-Ireland semi-finals and an All-Ireland final since taking over from Justin McCarthy in the summer of 2008, yet found his position under scrutiny following an emphatic defeat by Tipperary in the provincial decider earlier this summer.

Despite the Waterford county board’s clear desire to hang on to their man, Fitzgerald told RTÉ’s Marty Morrissey that now was the right time to call it a day, explaining that the long daily commute to training was a huge factor in his decision.

“It’s a long road up and down, being honest about it,” he said. “You’re leaving home at two o’clock every day, not getting home till 12 or 12.30 [at night].

Maybe in certain things the lads need another voice as well. We’ve had some great run and I’ve no regrets whatsoever.

Fitzgerald also spoke with great pride of leading Waterford to a Munster title last summer, when they scored a three-point victory over Cork in a replay after the first meeting had ended in a thrilling stalemate.

“I suppose winning a Munster Championship in 2010 was something that nobody saw coming, especially with a team in transition,” Fitzgerald said, “but the boys were absolutely fantastic.

“To win it in a replay against Cork was actually unreal. As a boy growing up, I wanted to win it as a player. To win it as a manager, there aren’t too many Clare guys who have done it and I don’t think there are too many Waterford guys. That was a massive achievement.”

Waterford County Board chairman Tom Cunningham paid tribute to the retiring bainisteoir last night, describing Fitzgerald as a “fantastic ambassador” for hurling and the GAA.

“Davy has given tirelessly of his time to the cause of Waterford hurling since his appointment,” Cunningham said, “and his passion and desire to see Waterford achieve at every level from underage to senior could never be questioned.

It would be difficult to put into words the deep sense of pride that Davy instilled in our hurlers during his time in charge.

“This has been a time of great transition within the Waterford Senior Hurling team. With the departure of so many great players from our setup over a short period of time, the role of bainisteoir during Davy’s four seasons in charge required extraordinary leadership and commitment.

“Davy Fitzgerald’s ability to bring new players into the Waterford set-up and to successfully manage them into becoming highly rated intercounty hurlers was the principle reason as to how we managed to hold our position as one of the top four hurling teams in the land. ”

Cunningham also confirmed that the hunt for Fitzgerald’s successor would begin next Monday night when the county board meet to consider the appointment process.

Limerick’s hurlers are also in the market for a new manager following Donal O’Grady’s decision not to take up the offer of another 12-month term with the Treaty County.

“I want to thank everyone in Limerick for their help in 2011,” O’Grady told GAA.ie.

“The players showed great commitment and the backroom staff were the same. The Limerick County Board couldn’t have been more helpful in terms of support and resources — anything we wanted, we got. They were very good to deal with.”

A meeting of the county board has been called for next Tuesday night to begin the search for a man to lead Limerick to a first Munster title since 1996.

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Niall Kelly

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