DAVY FITZGERALD IS the man to take Wexford ‘to the next level’ in the eyes of captain Matthew O’Hanlon, who has thrown his support behind the manager after the county board announced earlier today he will remain in charge for the 2019 season.
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After Wexford’s quarter-final championship exit to Clare last month, there had been uncertainty over Fitzgerald’s future but their squad were strong in their backing for him to remain as manager.
“We had said all along that we wanted Davy to stay on,” outlined O’Hanlon.
“As a group of players and panel, we were firmly behind him. We made that clear to him and the county board and we’re just delighted with the decision that he’s decided to stay on.
“I think we’ve had two good years under him, we’ve progressed an awful lot and I think he’s the man to lead us to the next level. From a personal perspective I’m delighted and then from the panel itself we’re over the moon so looking forward to 2019 already.”
O’Hanlon had been in contact with Fitzgerald since their 2018 season concluded with that loss in Páirc Uí Chaoimh and while articulating the support of the players for him to continue in the role, he was mindful of affording Fitzgerald time to consider his future.
“My role as captain, I’d be quite close to Davy in terms of talking to him most weeks about different bits and pieces so the week after defeat was pretty raw for everybody involved.
“We were extremely disappointed. Contact was minimal amongst management and players then. Thereafter you look on at the semi-finals and your mind wanders to next year and what might be. Throughout those couple of weeks would have been in touch with Davy on and off just to discuss what went wrong for us and what we could potentially look to put right next year.
“We made it clear to him that the players wanted him back. The county board made it clear that they wanted him back. So he was in no doubt that he was wanted in Wexford. In fairness to Davy, it’s a big commitment for him to commit to a year of his life travelling to Wexford from Clare.
Davy Fitzgerald celebrates at the final whistle of their victory over Dublin in May.
Source: Tommy Greally/INPHO
“He’s got a lot of commitments back in Clare as well. He’s got a family to look after, he’s got relatives and his parents at home, he’s got business interests in Clare that he needs to look after.
“We were respectful of that to give him the time to make the decision that suited him be. He had to weigh up if it was the right thing for him to do from a personal point of view.
“I think it shows how passionate Davy is and how dedicated he is to the job. He wouldn’t say yes to doing something if he wasn’t going to put 100% of himself into it and he has done that over the last two years and I’m sure he will now next year as well.
“I would have travelled from Dublin to training for the last seven, eight years. That’s tough when you’re the one training but Davy’s the first one that arrives on the pitch and he’s the last one to leave as well so you can add an extra couple of hours time that he needs to be there for.
“He could be leaving Sixmilebridge at one or two in the afternoon and not be getting back there til one or two in the morning. It’s a huge commitment from him. But he’s got a good group of people around him in Clare that he’s able to work the travel arrangements with. So hopefully that will still be in place for next year as well.”
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A dejected Davy Fitzgerald at the end of their All-Ireland quarter-final loss to Clare.
Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO
The 26-year-old feels that avoiding a change in manager was crucial to Wexford’s development.
“If you look at the stage where we’re at as a team and a panel, we’re quite a senior panel in that there’s players there that are seasoned championship campaigners and have competed in big games over the last number of years.
“We’re not at the stage where we’re a team in transition where there’s a lot of younger players coming through. In that scenario you’re maybe better positioned for a new voice to come in but we’re in a position where we think we’re ready to compete for top honours.
“Sometimes when a new manager comes in, it’s difficult to make that impact in the first year because you’re learning different ways of training, you’re getting used to different members of backroom team, different styles of play. That stuff all takes time and practice.
“The fact that we’ve worked under Davy for the last two years. We know how he works, we know how he wants to train and players know what’s expected of them in that setup. I think that is all of benefit to us looking forward to 2019.”
The Wexford team before last year’s Leinster final against Galway.
Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO
Next Sunday, O’Hanlon will be in Croke Park to watch the battle for the biggest prize in hurling. After their rise in 2017, this year saw Wexford’s progress stunted but he still believes they have the capacity to kick on again next season.
“I’m going up to the game. It’s the biggest day of the hurling calendar and I want to go up and soak up the atmosphere and use that as a bit more motivation for myself from a personal level.
“The last two years I think it’s been the most open championship that it has been since my time playing since 2011. You look at the top six, seven, eight teams, anyone could beat anyone on any given day.
“Look the over-riding feeling after the Clare game was just absolutely gutted disappointment. It’s one thing when you lose to a better team having played to the best of your potential but losing when you don’t reach that performance, when you don’t play to your potential, it’s a lot tougher to take.
Matthew O’Hanlon in action for Wexford against Clare.
Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO
“It’s the question of what if. That’s the kind of thoughts that are in my head now looking on at the rest of the championship and will be in the back of my head as we progress into winter and back into pre-season.
“I don’t think we’re too far off. From our perspective it’s just getting that consistency of performance, where we switch off for 20 minutes, or performances where we turn up and are flat for whatever reason, that’s the area we need to improve on next year.
“I don’t think we’re too far away but any other county that’s knocked out at this stage is telling themselves the same thing. That’s what 2019 will be down to.”
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