2021 was Davy Fitzgerald’s final year in charge of the Wexford senior hurlers.
A five-year spell with the Yellowbellies came to an anti-climatic end with defeats to Kilkenny and his native county Clare in the Leinster SHC and a first round qualifying game in a sun-drenched Semple Stadium.
The pinnacle of the Sixmilebridge’s man’s time in charge of the Leinster outfit came in 2019 when they won the provincial crown for the first time since 2004.
And despite never reaching those heights again, Fitzgerald feels that his side were “unlucky” in this year’s championship.
“I think the final year, we were very unlucky,” he opined.
“The Kilkenny game, I honestly think it was as good a game as was in the championship, hurling-wise. It had everything in it; savage hurling, good hard tackles, serious scores. We could have won that, got to a Leinster final, we might or might not have beaten Dublin, been in an All-Ireland semi-final. It was that close, it was unreal. I actually thought we played some of our best hurling against Kilkenny.
“Against Clare, after about 15 minutes I thought we played as good as we ever played. We came from 12 points down. I would take responsibility for the Clare game, because I halved the warm-up from 22 minutes down to 10 or 11. I did, because the weather was so hot.
“If you notice us in the first 10 or 12 minutes, there were lads out of breath. We didn’t break our wind. I didn’t break the wind in the warm-up, massive mistake, and that was my call. It wasn’t down on Graham [Byrne] or anything. That was my call. I was just conscious of the hot weather. And I think that was the reason we started so slowly.
“But in fairness, them lads fought like anything. I couldn’t say anything to them. We actually owned the game against Clare for the last three quarters. We owned it. And we gave away a soft goal at the end. This year was actually a lot closer than you think. We weren’t far away.”
That defeat to Clare brought with it the end of Fitzgerald’s continuous association with the intercounty game that stretches back to his playing days.
However, he is keen to return to the sideline as soon as is realistically possible.
“I think with me, the appetite will always be there if something takes my fancy,” he said.
“Whether I go back into county management or any management, I don’t know. I probably will.
“If the right opportunity comes up, maybe yeah. I’d love to tell you, I’d love to have a crystal ball and tell you exactly what’s going to happen. Will I miss it? I’ve been involved since 1989 at senior level and this is my first year not in it. I don’t know what the next few months are going to bring and how much I’ll miss it. I might, I might not. I don’t know.
“Whatever happens, happens. I’ve had a great time though, I’ve had an unbelievable time.
“But I just want to take this time and enjoy going to games, and not having to worry about what’s coming next week. It’s been a long time since I got to do that.”
The 2013 All-Ireland winning manager also took exception to recent criticism from Wexford great Larry O’Gorman who questioned his loyalty to Wexford.
“I was a bit disappointed in that,” Fitzgerald said.
“I talked to a few of the Wexford players, and they didn’t agree with what Larry had to say. And they would mean more to me than what Larry would, being honest.
“I talked to a good few supporters down there, and they said to me, ‘you’ve given five years of unbelievable service, you’ve gone above and beyond the call’. So to be honest, I didn’t pay much attention to what Larry said.”