Wexford senior hurling had a miniature resurgence this year under the watchful eye of Davy Fitzgerald.
His heart on his sleeve approach to management landed him in hot water earlier in the year when he received a sideline ban for an interaction with Tipperary player Jason Forde during the league semi-final.
Love him or loathe him though, he does keep hurling in the headlines – some would say for the wrong reasons.
Well, we’re all entitled to our opinions, or are we?
Not according to Davy himself. We’re not allowed express an opinion, or rather All-Ireland winners Michael Duignan and Henry Shefflin are not. His latest outburst – for that is what it is – really shows the anxieties that Davy carries around his neck when discussing his work.
There is and always has been an air of ‘they’re all out to get me’ about him. I have always found Duignan to be one of the most honest pundits that has the benefit of a national platform to air his opinions.
He doesn’t shout from the rooftops in order to be heard, he’s not a ‘say it to be controversial’ pundit like Ger Loughnane or Joe Brolly, he just says it as it is. He knows hurling, he’s been there, won the medals and has the t-shirt, to say the least.
Shefflin is Shefflin, he has won and lost All-Ireland finals and he has seen the inner workings of all aspects of the game.
Does he know a bit about hurling? You could say that he does, yes. Taking a swipe at Shefflin and Duignan was an ill-judged move.
The words he used sounded rehearsed. Deflection is a description that may sum it up in one word. What was Davy hoping to achieve?
Is he saying that teams can’t beat Kilkenny or Tipperary unless they play with a ‘system’? It would seem so.
Wexford beat Kilkenny in championship hurling this year, a huge step forward for them.
They hurled very well during the league campaign and look to be shaping up well for future years. They are young, fit and have plenty of hurling in them.
Would they have beaten Kilkenny that night if they didn’t play a ‘system’? I would say that they were the better team with or without one.
The Wexford full-back line looked suspect that night in Wexford Park. Davy gave himself too many kudos for out thinking Brian Cody. If it was a game of cards, one would have to surmise that Cody was working off a pair of tens and Davy had a full house.
Instead of progressing and maybe rolling the dice against Galway, he allowed Wexford to be a ‘system team’ and the result in the Leinster final was a win for the traditional set-up.
Waterford persisted with it, too. If getting to semi-finals or maybe a final is the aim, then this is the way to go.
When drawn against a strong hurling team that plays the game as it should be played, the ‘system teams’ seem to fall.
Wexford should learn from Waterford. Kilkenny were far from firing on all cylinders this year and yet when it came down to the pressure of championship hurling, Waterford all but folded in the last ten minutes of a game that they should have comfortably won by eleven or twelve points. They were forced into extra-time, the flaws of the ‘system’ evident once more.
Cork will relish the opportunity of a semi-final with Derek McGrath’s side. Good teams always find a way through. Pack your defence all you like, opportunities always arise and good teams take them.
So, where to now for Davy Fitzgerald?
He has a capable set of hurlers in Wexford but, just like Waterford, setting up with a system is acknowledging that the other team are better than you.
Why give the opposition that kind of boost before the ball is thrown in?
Can Wexford or Waterford survive in this game going toe-to-toe? Of course they can.
The game is a spectacle that should be embraced. Learn from the better teams. From the ground up, produce hurlers, try to compete on the same level and don’t try to reduce their ability; it will ruin the game.
Davy likes to see himself as a hurling man so he should embrace the game. It should be fast and skilful, not slow and painful. And if he needs a few tips, maybe Duignan or Shefflin would be available. Maybe.
Fergal Cantwell, Pundit Arena
Check out the latest episode of The 16th Man where we looked ahead to the meeting of Tipperary and Galway as well as previewing all the weekend’s football action.