Dublin: 15°C Saturday 19 June 2021

'We're in a different world to when I was playing, there is way more pressure'

Davy Fitzgerald says he understands why some players feel the need to take a break from hurling.

Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald.
Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

DAVY FITZGERALD FOUND himself fighting his instinct. Paudie Foley, an All Star nominee in 2019, wanted out. Fitzgerald, naturally, would rather keep one of his most talented players on board.

The half-back essentially told Fitzgerald he just wasn’t feeling it. Training was a slog, the prospect of sunny championship days not enough to ignite the competitive fire inside him.

“If it was me 10 years ago, I would have probably drove him crazy, annoying him all the time,” Fitzgerald says.

“The last few years, I would certainly try (to change his mind). Even get one or two of the lads to ring him and talk to him and we’d flesh it out. You try and do everything.

“But if someone has their mind made up on something and they feel a certain way, I don’t think you should try go crazy to overturn it. They’re still not going to be 100% committed if you do that. When you play at county level you have to be 100% committed. If you’re not feeling that, then you are as well off out of it.”

There are clearly no hard feelings. Fitzgerald describes Foley as “a brilliant hurler” and “a great young lad”, adding that the door is always open should the Crossabeg-Ballymurn clubman have a change of heart.

You have to be that way. There is no way that 35 or 40 players are going to feel brilliant about it all the time. Paudie Foley is a good young fellah and if he feels he wants to come back at some stage, he can pick up the phone and ring me, and we would certainly talk and bring him back. 

“But I think you’ll find all around the country, be it club or county – I’ve certainly come across it club-wise as well – you are going to have people who feel that way. Don’t put them under pressure just to stay there. Give them a bit of space, give them a bit of time to think and let them do what they want.

“You’ve got to try and understand everybody, and accept how they feel.”

Speaking beyond Foley’s situation, Fitzgerald says he understands the difficulties some players may find in playing top level hurling, particularly after a year which has proved so challenging for so many. For young athletes with jobs and in many instances, young families, the commitment required is huge. So too the pressure and scrutiny. 

The 2021 season will play out minus a notable number of high profile players who decided to take time out from the game.

Kilkenny will forge ahead without last year’s captain Colin Fennelly. Waterford goalkeeper Stephen O’Keefe also stepped away for a year, as did Clare’s Seadna Morey, while six-time All-Ireland SFC winner Paul Mannion removed himself from the Dublin football panel.

“I try to be more aware of everything,” Fitzgerald continues. “I think society now, compared to when I was playing 20 or 30 years ago, things change, people change, and we’ve kind of got to accept that.

“We’re in a different fecking world to when I was playing. It’s way different, there is way more pressure. There is social media, there is a lot more pressure out there now on players, on management, on everyone. You have to be very careful with how you deal with people.

“Even the likes of myself, I try not get too sucked into everything that is happening, because it is tough out there.”

davy-fitzgerald-launches-marie-keating-campaign-to-give-bladder-cancer-the-red-card Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald. (Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile) Source: Seb Daly/SPORTSFILE

The Wexford manager is on familiar territory this week as he prepares for Sunday’s trip to take on his native Clare in the National League.

The former Banner goalkeeper politely declined to comment on the recent off-field issues which have troubled his home county, but was more forthcoming when asked about hurling’s new advantage rule.

“Mad to get rid of it,” Fitzgerald says.

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“You always need to give something two or three weeks and that’s fine. My initial reaction is it will slow down a game and there’ll be more frees. I said it straight after the game (against Laois on Sunday) and I haven’t changed my mind.

“We’ve a great game. The last 10 or 15 years have shown that. Most of the games that go really well are the ones that are let flow as much as possible.

Blow the frees that need to be blown. We could blow a free every two minutes if we wanted to. I was involved in a game last year where there were over 40 frees in it, and someone said to me the ref was right, he had to blow them. That’s baloney. It was the worst game of hurling ever. It was just 48 frees in 70 minutes, it was ridiculous.

“You have to use a bit of common sense. I think that’s the most important thing. And I just think we need to be careful with that rule.”

Fitzgerald added that part of his frustration with constant rule changes is the lack of communication from the powers that be.

“I think this is one of the first years that managers were asked a question, and I said ‘Jesus, we’re being asked a question?’ It was about the five or three (league) games.

“Would it not be ideal for players and management to be asked what they think? Like, these rules are forced upon you and you don’t even get a chance to comment on it or talk about it before it happens. Maybe it would be nice that it’s a thing where we could actually be involved in the process a small bit.”

To mark Bladder Cancer Awareness Month, hurling legend and Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald has teamed up with the Marie Keating Foundation and Roche to ‘Give Bladder Cancer the Red Card’. The awareness campaign aims to encourage men – who are three times more likely to be diagnosed than women – to know the warning signs and get help if needed. Visit www.mariekeating.ie/redcard for more information.

About the author:

Ciarán Kennedy

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