For almost half an hour Davy Fitzgerald sat perched on the edge of his seat in Chadwicks Wexford Park yesterday, although he sat up that bit straighter when talk turned from how hurling is officiated to how the game is played and coached.
This is what really energises the 48-year-old who has been engaged in the senior inter-county game since he was first old enough to vote.
This is the love affair that prompted him to take a training session with the Sixmilebridge hurlers the morning after his wedding late last year.
A very positive brand of pride shines through as he declares how he didn’t miss one game with the club across 30 years attending goal.
That bond with hurling has been unbreakable and it is put to him towards the end of this chat that the language he uses is redolent of an addict.
“I could be, man,” he laughed.
It’s well known that he wrestled with the decision to come back and manage Wexford for a fourth year even though Fitzgerald and Wexford was love at first sight and the flame has only burned brighter the longer the relationship has matured.
Leinster champions last season, they are sitting pretty just behind Limerick in Group B of the Allianz League Division 1 but it is the connection he feels with the squad and the locals that gripped Fitzgerald and made it impossible to walk away.
“I was 100 per cent probably not coming back. On the Sunday before the Thursday, I was 100 per cent gone.
“There was nine or ten people really close to me and nine of them had said to me, ‘Davy, you can’t keep doing that journey.’”
The trip over and back from Clare to Wexford was only part of it. There were other personal reasons which he prefers not to share that pointed toward the exit.
In the end, a couple of calls and texts proved the difference between staying and going.
That his health might have been mentioned as a reason for cutting the cord with the southeast is no surprise given he has five stents in his heart.
This gig takes its toll. He admits that and then adds that people wouldn’t believe the hours that are poured into it.
Many is the person who has pointed to his passion on the sideline as the reason for any health issues but Fitzgerald will tell you that he has curbed the worst of those excesses and learned to digest victory and defeat in a much more palatable manner.
What he can’t change is his genes and, specifically, those on his mother’s side which seem to have been the source of his very visible emotional energy and, unfortunately, the issues that have claimed too many of his uncles too early in life.
“It’s just unfortunate,” he explained. “Her family, there is massive heart disease in it.
“Whether it happens or not I don’t know but I like doing what I do and I think it’s important that you live your life in a way that you’re happy with.
“There is no point being afraid to do stuff. If you’re afraid to do stuff, guys, I don’t know, are you really living?”
Fitzgerald is never more alive than when he has hurling on his mind.
He has seen how players have struggled with the void that presents itself when retirement comes and there is a fear that he will struggle similarly whenever his time on the sidelines does end.
Efforts have been made to cushion the blow. There are “one or two” other TV programmes in the pipeline after the success of his Ireland’s Fittest Family venture but if these are parachutes then he doesn’t look like pulling the cord and preparing a soft landing any time soon.
Wexford may be his main brief right now but he takes his first session of the season as coach to Sixmilebridge tonight and what is that but another opportunity to put into practice the thoughts and tactics that whirl around his brain and scatter through every day?
One of the joys of coaching Wexford is the inquisitiveness of the players. Whatever he has thrown at them they have absorbed and then come back for seconds.
It’s a workload and an appetite that allowed Fitzgerald to tweak tactics four or five times against Kilkenny earlier this month.
When he was young Fitzgerald would rush home from school and spend hours practising his game against the wall of the factory next door to his house, the repetition broken up by visualisation techniques that imagined himself as a centre-back one moment and a forward the next.
It’s that variety and sense of possibility that still stimulates him now.
“I kind of want my hurlers now to feel like they can do anything. That you are not limited to that little box of 40×40 or 30×30.
“That if you feel like going up the field and you end up in the half-forward line or full-forward line, go and do it.
“Someone else will work into your position or whatever it is. I love seeing the game that the players have loads of decisions that they can make.
“People would accuse me that it’s too robotic. It’s the complete opposite.”
Total hurling? Totally Davy anyway.
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