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A Wexford win next Sunday would complete a novel set of hurling titles for Davy Fitzgerald

After Munster, All-Ireland and league glory, Leinster is the last title the Clare man seeks.

Davy Fitzgerald has had some memorable moments in his managerial career.
Davy Fitzgerald has had some memorable moments in his managerial career.
Image: INPHO

SEMPLE STADIUM IN July 2010 witnessed Munster glory with Waterford.

Croke Park in September 2013 was the scene of an All-Ireland triumph with Clare.

Semple Stadium in May 2016 saw a National League title lifted with Clare.

Will Croke Park in June 2019 complete the set for Davy Fitzgerald with a Leinster crown claimed by Wexford?

The Sixmilebridge native stepped out first on the inter-county managerial road mid-summer in 2008, filling the Waterford hotseat after Justin McCarthy’s departure following a chaotic period for the county’s flagship hurling side.

Since then there have been times of turbulence during his reigns with Waterford, Clare and now Wexford, but amidst the drama, there have been an array of high moments for Fitzgerald.

There are four key trophies on offer at the elite level of senior hurling and Fitzgerald has managed to guide teams to three of those. Those victories have arrived at neat three-year intervals and Sunday offers the opportunity to complete that set.

Steering Wexford past Kilkenny would make it a landmark moment for Fitzgerald in his sideline endeavours, the addition of a Leinster accolade to his previous Munster, All-Ireland and league honours. 

In the group of managers currently filling the leading positions around the country, there have been plenty of successes. Three of them already have the championship double – both provincial and national – along league wins on their CV.

Liam Sheedy achieved that in his first go at life as Tipperary manager, the 2010 All-Ireland win rounding it off. Micheál Donoghue swept the boards with Galway to lift three trophies in 2017.

Fitzgerald’s opponent next Sunday is the clear managerial benchmark with Brian Cody accustomed to glory with a victory record that reads All-Ireland (11), Leinster (15) and league (9). On five occasions Cody has done a seasonal treble.

Elsewhere on Sunday, John Kiely could scale those heights and a Munster triumph at the Gaelic Grounds would ensure his Limerick side are the proprietors of three pieces of silverware after a golden run over the last ten months. 

But the novelty in Fitzgerald’s bid is rooted in the fact that he could eclipse rivals in both provinces. His Waterford side fashioned that 2010 Munster win in memorable fashion, with Tony Browne and Dan Shanahan swooping for crucial late goals to define a two-game saga.

Goals were at the heart of his late September euphoria six years ago when he parachuted Shane O’Donnell into his starting fifteen and watched him have an extraordinary impact on Clare’s day. 

And then Tony Kelly weighed in with the telling late intervention that settled the issue against Waterford in a 2016 league final replay.

Sunday will not be his opening attempt at landing the spoils in Leinster. Two seasons ago, in the wake of a seismic win for the county in a semi-final against Kilkenny, Wexford arrived in Croke Park bristling with hope and backed by a huge following. But 2017 was the year Galway were in full flow, chalking up 0-29 in that decider and they were nine clear of Wexford by the finish. 

Last year’s inaugural round-robin series saw Wexford wind up in third place and have a direct passage to the All-Ireland series where they exited after a quarter-final. This time a draw after a pulsating tie with Kilkenny on a night of head scrambling permutations, concluded with Wexford’s path to a Leinster final copper-fastened.

They have just one win to their credit so far in this championship but are the only team in the province unbeaten. A trio of draws means Fitzgerald’s team are well-versed in tight and tense clashes.

They’ll be renewing acquaintances with Kilkenny on Sunday. Fans may be weighed down with the historical baggage Kilkenny have afflicted, the pair last met in a Leinster final back in 2008 when a team marshalled by Cody was dismissing Wexford for the fourth year on the spin at that juncture.

However under Fitzgerald’s tutelage, Wexford’s championship record with Kilkenny consists of a win, a loss (by one point) and a draw over the last three campaigns. Entering the latest instalment on Sunday, they are not bereft of confidence.

A Wexford win on Sunday would be widely rejoiced by their followers after a 15-year barren spell.

And for the Clare man in charge, it would be a significant milestone as well.

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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