Wexford manager in compelling form as he chats to Joe about the reasons he is setting up his team as they are now
The All Ireland Hurling Championship season is over for Davy Fitzgerald's Wexford but 2017 has shown plenty of buds that could flower next year and beyond.
The county shone during the Allianz Hurling League and overcame provincial powerhouses Kilkenny when the summer rolled around.
Ultimately though, Wexford fell short against Derek McGrath's Waterford on Sunday in the All Ireland quarter final clash.
Criticism from pundits in regards to Wexford's style of play was met with a strong response from Fitzgerald when he spoke to Off The Ball's Oisin Langan after the match, remarking: "If they want to see two teams in it every year, grand, that's their view. I don't respect it. I respect them as players - I don't respect them as pundits. That's being honest about it. I'm entitled to my view so I am and that's it. They're entitled to theirs but that doesn't mean they're right."
On tonight's Off The Ball, Fitzgerald joined Joe to reflect on recent events and he feels counties like Wexford have no choice but to use tactics like the sweeper system or other ideas in order to compete, citing the select number of teams that have gone all the way to Liam McCarthy Cup glory in the past decade.
"Over the last 10 years, basically Kilkenny have won seven All Irelands, Tipp have won two and Clare have won one. Now, Clare have won one and the only reason we used the sweeper in the semi final and quarter final - and we would have been in big trouble if we didn't use it. We had to. We had to play to our strengths," he said, adding that "it can't be the same rule for everyone otherwise you're just going to have the same two in the final all the time - maybe three".
Fitzgerald had responded to criticism from pundits when speaking to Oisin post-game on Sunday:
On specific criticism from pundits like the suggestion that he should let his players "off the leash" on field among other criticism, Fitzgerald responded, "I get some laugh when I hear that. It's actually hilarious so it is."
Expanding on that point, he continued: "What they're saying is 'just get the ball and hit the ball'. That's the extent of the thinking and 'Win your own ball'".
He also responded to the criticism from pundit and former Offaly hurler Michael Duignan, saying, "I'm not trying to convince anyone here. I'm just saying what it is."
On the criticism in regards to stylistic approaches, Fitzgerald continued, "It just annoys me and I'm sure Derek [McGrath] is the same. I'd encourage, Michael if he could, just go down the sideline, get involved with maybe Offaly, put his thoughts into action and see how he gets on because it's a different thing when you have to go down to that sideline and you have to make decisions for 30 of a panel or whatever to get the best for them, to give them a chance to be successful."
Fitzgerald added, "I've met Michael on a number of occasions and I think he's a good guy and I like him but that doesn't mean that I think he's right. Surely I'm allowed to have my opinion the same as he is allowed to have his. That's all I'm saying and I'm entitled to that."
Wexford's manager Davy Fitzgerald and manager Derek McGrath of Waterford after the game ©INPHO/James Crombie
He also emphasised his belief that using a sweeper does not indicate a lack of ambition and that he believes that silverware can be won with it "100%".
"[Michael]'s saying 'lack of ambition', to me it's showing more ambition to get there," said Fitzgerald on the sweeper.
The former Clare manager feels that "people should just be happy that there are more teams in the mix now", rather than lashing out at individual sides' distinct tactical approaches to the game. And he made the point that "just because you don't play a sweeper doesn't mean you don't get your forwards back".
And adding that everything evolves eventually, he also pondered that "maybe some teams are afraid of change, I don't know".
He also gave his insight into his approach against Derek McGrath's Waterford on Sunday and also praised his Deise counterpart, describing McGrath's work as "phenomenal" and that he has made his team play to their strengths.
Fitzgerald also said he "loves thinking about the game" and that he wants to see greater levels of competition in the sense of more sides challenging for the biggest honours.
You can listen to the full interview on the podcast player or also stream/download on iTunes.