In a week where Davy Fitzgerald was effectively forced out of his Clare senior hurling manager’s job, it’s hard not to feel that his management career is starting to follow a trend.
Fitzgerald is one of the most recognisable and divisive figures in the world of GAA. He has transitioned from goal-scoring goalkeeper in Ger Loughnane’s double All-Ireland winning team of the 90s, to guiding a young Clare team of his own to All-Ireland glory in 2013.
However, despite his success on and off the field, question marks still remain as to whether Fitzgerald has the personality and man-management skills to keep a team at the top.
Fitzgerald cut his cloth as a manager with the Limerick Institute of Technology. He enjoyed multiple successes with the Limerick college, his no-nonsense management style backed-up by videos of passionate dressing room dressing-downs and rumours of Christmas Day training sessions.
His success with LIT soon led to an offer to take charge of the Waterford senior hurlers. Having ousted Justin McCarthy mid-season, Waterford went on to reach their first All-Ireland since 1963 with Fitzgerald having been at the helm for only three months. Unfortunately, they came up against a Kilkenny side at the absolute peak of their powers and the Deise suffered a heavy defeat. Three years later, he would take over his beloved Clare and again, in a remarkably short space of time, success was to follow.
However, analysing Fitzgerald’s management career in greater detail reveals a certain recurring downside to his management style. He is a manager who can get a reaction out of teams. He takes on teams that are struggling to reach their potential or trying to reclaim former glories. His abrasive, no-nonsense style provokes a reaction from his charges and inspires instant, short-term results.
The previous statement may seem contradictory considering his relative success with the LIT team over a number of years, but in reality the natural turnover in a college environment means he is in essence taking charge of a “new” team each year. With Waterford, things soon started to turn sour and eventually he left his post in 2011, a year which included shipping seven goals to Tipperary in a Munster final.
His tenure with Clare has followed a very similar path. All-Ireland glory in 2013 has been followed by disappointing early exits in the subsequent three years and, once again, Davy now finds himself surplus to requirements in his native county.
There is no doubt that Davy Fitzgerald is a talented manager. He is, however, quickly becoming the José Mourinho of the hurling world – get in, get the job done, and then leave in a controversial blaze of glory.
But now that his time is up in Clare, where next for the diminutive Bannerman? Given the difficulties Wexford have experienced trying to turn U-21 success into senior glory, he could certainly do a job on Slaneyside. Whatever happens, it’s unlikely to be too long before we see Davy prowling the sidelines once more.
Ger Power, Pundit Arena