It’s perfectly normal for any losing manager to seek out the positives, only this time Davy Fitzgerald didn’t need to try very hard, if at all. Without waving his passport or next schedule of games it was clear he’s already going where he wants to with his Waterford team, and it’s not necessarily the knock-out stages of the Allianz Hurling League.
The defending champions made their exit on a gloomy wet afternoon in Kilkenny on Sunday, losing 0-18 to 0-16, which meant the home team progress to play Cork in this weekend’s semi-final, again with home advantage.
Win or lose, Waterford were already booked to travel to Portugal first-thing Tuesday morning, for a five-day warm-weather training trip designed to maximise their potential come the Munster championship.
Kilkenny certainly won’t mind another game, especially against the in-form Cork: their Leinster championship opener is still just under five weeks away, Saturday April 22nd, at home to Westmeath.
Waterford, in contrast, are out the following day, against All-Ireland champions Limerick, without home advantage, that game to be played in Semple Stadium given the unavailability of Walsh Park.
Limerick have already been to Portugal this season, manager John Kiely admitting it helped focus the minds, and now they face a semi-final against Tipperary.
Cork won’t mind being in the knock-out stages either, given their Munster championship doesn’t begin until a week later, April 30th, at home to Waterford in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
No wonder Fitzgerald won’t mind the change of scenery.
“I think a lot of teams are doing it, and we’ve certain things to work on,” he said of this week in the sun. “It gives us a bit of time. Another game or two would be advantage for the seven or eight lads, who are missing, there’s a road to go yet.
“I’ll be totally honest, when I got this team at the start, they weren’t in a good place . . . we’re building, and we’re getting out of it in a big way. The beating that was inflicted on them by Clare last year is tough to come back out of that place, they were doubting themselves, there were certain other issues that were bothering them.
I think we’ve come a long way, but we’ve some way to go yet. It’s a journey, I’m only four months at the job and I’m certainly going to stay to that process, no matter what any pundits or anyone thinks outside. I don’t really care.
“We have a process. Am I going to change the whole lot of Waterford hurling in three or four months? I’m not. But have I got these guys playing with me? They’re playing for me, 100 per cent. They’re giving me everything.
“The one thing I’m delighted about is we might have conceded four (goals) last week (against Tipperary), one or two of them we shouldn’t have conceded, one of them should have been a free out. I don’t think we gave up many goal chances, which was important.”
Stephen Bennett was pulled before the Kilkenny game, after sustaining a hamstring injury, while Jamie Barron was suspended. Austin Gleeson, Conor Prunty, Conor Gleeson, Shane McNulty, Darragh Lyons and Michael Kiely are all at various stages of their comebacks, although the hope is all should be ready come the Limerick game.
The memory of winning last year’s league, defeating Cork in the final, may still be fresh in the minds of some of those players. So too must be the memory of subsequently winning only one game in the Munster championship, failing to progress as a result.
Kilkenny manager Derek Lyng also has a list of players to return, with TJ Reid, Adrian Mullen, Huw Lawlor, Mikey Butler and Eoin Murphy already absent, while Richie Reid, Cillian Buckley and Paddy Mullen were pulled before Sunday’s game.
So, as well as being content to take his own time with Waterford, Fitzgerald reckoned the Kilkenny supporters will need to give Lyng some time too, especially when playing at home.
“People have got to accept that Derek is coming in after Brian (Cody), right. Brian had a way of doing things that was very effective, very good, and I can see Derek is trying other things. You can see the crowd is getting a bit frustrated with him at times, and he has to hold to his beliefs.
“I think Kilkenny have got to be patient with him as well, give him the chance to do what he wants to do. I’m only in this job four months, and I’m not going to change the world in four months. With Clare, it took me two or three years to win an All-Ireland, with Wexford, it took me three to win Leinster.
“It doesn’t happen overnight, as much as people want it to. I think Derek will do fine, I can see the changes he’s trying to make, and it will break down a small bit. You can hear the crowd, and that actually affects the players. Sometimes you’re better off playing away from home, it isn’t near as bad.”