Davy Fitzgerald was speaking to launch Season 11 of Ireland's Fittest Family, sponsored by Londis. Marc O'Sullivan
Rallying Cry

'If I'm not the man for the job, I won't be staying': Davy Fitz promises major Waterford improvement

Waterford boss says he ’110%’ supports Austin Gleeson’s decision to take a break from inter-county hurling.

DAVY FITZGERALD HAS shrugged off criticism of his underperforming Waterford team but acknowledged that if there isn’t a ‘major improvement’ in 2024, he may have to step aside.

The former All-Ireland winning Clare manager has endured a difficult second coming so far as Déise manager, returning this season to the county he previously managed between 2008 and 2011.

Waterford failed to advance from their group in both the National League and Championship with ex-players taking aim.

Former Déise attacker Eoin Kelly warned that Waterford could end up ‘playing against Kildare, Laois and all these crowds in the Joe McDonagh Cup’ while local legend Ken McGrath said the quality has been ‘very, very poor’ and attributed this ‘to the coaching’.

Speaking at the launch of season 11 of the Londis sponsored Ireland’s Fittest Family TV show, Fitzgerald said he doesn’t ‘really give a shit’ about anything that is written or said about him.

He also cited mitigating factors for the team’s underperformance, like ‘dented’ confidence as a result of the poor 2022 Championship under Liam Cahill.

But the 2013 All-Ireland winning manager, who confirmed that Kieran Bennett and Ian Kenny are back on the panel, accepted that things must improve overall next season.

“I think that (confidence) was dented before I got there, to be honest with you,” said Fitzgerald. “I think their last year, 2022, the Munster championship didn’t go well. I think the round robin hasn’t gone well for Waterford as you can see over the last number of years they’ve been there.

“The defeats in Liam’s last year definitely had an effect, I think, mentally. But I think we’ve a better understanding of the ‘why?’ now. I’m hoping so.

“If we haven’t and if I’m not the man for the job, I won’t be staying just for the sake of being there. If they need someone else rather than me to turn it around, then that will be fine; let someone else do it if I can’t improve their fortunes.

“The only thing I’d say to that is don’t just judge this over a league game or two – give us until the end of the year and support us like anything. That’s the message I’d give to the Waterford supporters. Don’t judge, just support for the year and if you can’t see a major improvement then I’m sure Waterford or whoever, they’ll get the right person for the job.”

davy-fitzgerald-reacts-to-a-missed-chance-in-injury-time Fitzgerald's Waterford won just one game from four in this year's Munster senior hurling championship. Ken Sutton / INPHO Ken Sutton / INPHO / INPHO

Waterford contested the 2020 All-Ireland final under Cahill and reached the Championship’s last four in 2021 but, in line with their overall struggles in the Munster group, have picked up just two wins from eight provincial games since.

Fitzgerald said it was apparent to him after taking over that ‘there were a few things that needed to be dealt with and if you look at the last five years, you’ll see that’.

He claimed to have a better handle on the group now and how to improve them and pleaded with fans to be patient as he and his management team attempt to turn things around.

“I would say to them, ‘Just give us the year and stay with us. Don’t just be giving out if we lose a game or two’,” said Fitzgerald, addressing supporters. “I would just urge them all, let’s do it a bit different to other counties. Why can’t we be different and just go out and support them like crazy and see how we get on? Because the young lads are doing absolutely everything they can.”

On the criticism of his management and tactics, Fitzgerald was bullish.

“You’ll have people that like you and people that don’t like you for their own reasons,” he argued.

“Some of them mightn’t be just happy with certain ways I’ve done things in the past, or maybe I picked players or dropped players or didn’t do stuff and they’re going to have a go. That’s fine. You know what, that actually didn’t bother me at all. I was just bothered because I wasn’t getting the results.

“Did I read stuff or go to Twitter? No, I’ll be honest with you – I don’t really give a shit what you have to say. Journalists have to write what you have to write and in fairness to you, you’re pretty genuine and I accept that. The nasty stuff that comes, that’s going to come no matter what.”

austin-gleeson-watches-on-during-the-closing-stages Austin Gleeson: Former Hurler of the Year is taking a break from the inter-county game in 2024. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

Fitzgerald reiterated that former Hurler of the Year Austin Gleeson, who recently announced his decision to take a break from the county game, hasn’t retired and could return at any stage in 2024 if his circumstances change.

“I think Austin has had it in his head for a while that he needs a break,” said Fitzgerald.

“And I’m just going to support him. I made up my mind 110% that I’m going to support whatever Austin wants.”

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