Does Davy Fitzgerald deserve more praise for his time in charge of Waterford?

The Clare manager will be hoping to beat Waterford this weekend in the Allianz League final

davy fitzgerald, waterford, clare, hurling, national league

Waterford manager Davy Fitzgerald gives last minute instructions to his team ahead of the 2008 All-Ireland Final. Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie

The Davy derby! Revenge for 98!

They are just two of the ways the Allianz League final can be referred to as Waterford and Clare collide this Sunday in Semple Stadium.

With the exceptions of Michael Walsh and Kevin Moran, none of the current Waterford team are probably old enough to remember that replayed Munster final almost twenty years ago when some players confused each others heads with the sliotar. Keep in mind this was pre-mandatory helmet days!

Davy transferred from Deise foe to their friend and manager in 2008. While the All-Ireland final may have had scaring effect on adults, it doesn't seem to have stifled the growth of this young Waterford team, most of whom were in the mid-teens when that dark day occurred.

As a Waterford man, it’s always irked me that supporters in the county thought of 2008 as an overwhelming disaster. That All-Ireland final was a tough day but I've never bought the argument that it was any one individual's fault and that the season at large wasn't a mainly enjoyable roller coaster. If Davy deserved credit pre-game for leading us to the final, a place we hadn't been since 1963, then he certainly deserved credit after it for a sweet summer despite the sour ending.

Waterford manager Davy Fitzgerald celebrates after his side won the Munster Championship in 2010. Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Cathal Noonan

Did things go wrong on that final day? Yes. Was some of that Davy’s fault? Possibly, but in fairness that day a Waterford team that was passed it’s peak met an unstoppable force in Kilkenny. Combine that with all the other factors including hype distractions and the negative effect it has a on a player's nervous energy and really it doesn't come down to Davy or any one individual.

Since that day, John Mullane has talked about how under Davy they had to play catch-up on physical preparation during that summer and how it caused the heavy leggedness we saw in Croke Park on that dark September day.

The All-Ireland final was maybe the stand-out moment of Davy’s time, however a Munster title in 2010 and the introduction of many new faces should also be noted. If Waterford get back to the All-Ireland final in the near future, the experience of 2008 will benefit not just the squad and management, but also the county who’ll be wary of the dangers of hype. For that Davy deserves credit.

Listening to Jamesie O’Connor and Paul Flynn among others on Off the Ball during the week the general opinion is that neither team will hold back in effort, however they won’t give anything away tactically ahead of their Munster championship opener in five weeks.

Given the injury situation it’s likely that the starting teams will be the same in June, while the game plan may also alter. The age profile of both squads in the next two games may not be their last big battles. What ever happens on Sunday this game may be a mark along the rivalry road but it won’t be the defining one.

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