Ephie Fitzgerald steps down after Cork lose All-Ireland semi to Dublin

Ephie Fitzgerald steps down after Cork lose All-Ireland semi to Dublin
Ephie Fitzgerald following his side's defeat to Dublin. Picture: Sportsfile

Ephie Fitzgerald has brought the curtain down on his four years with the Cork Ladies football team in the wake of the Munster champions' loss to Dublin in an All-Ireland semi-final at Croke Park on Sunday afternoon.

Cork had beaten Dublin twice in the league this season but fell to the treble All-Ireland-chasing side by six points in front of 10,886 people at HQ and Fitzgerald was less than happy with some of the officiating on the day.

But to his exit first.

“I have four years done,” he explained. “I said I would give it one more year. There is a young squad there and I suppose I have a lot going on. I have a family at home that I probably haven't given as much time to this past few years as I should have been doing.

So, there are a lot of factors really. Work and all. But the result today was nothing to do with my decision to step down. That was made a while back.

Dublin and Cork were meeting for the first time in the championship since the Leinster side came through in last year's decider and, while Fitzgerald had no argument with their worth as winners here, he was perplexed by some of the refereeing decisions.

Cavan's Maggie Farrelly sent Cork's Eimear Meaney and Ciara O'Sullivan to the sinbin in the second-half, as well as Dublin's Niamh Collins, and Fitzgerald's issue with such decisions clearly goes higher than one official's interpretations.

“I'm certainly not happy with the officiating. Now, I can say this because I will be stepping down after this. I've four years done and I think it is time for a new voice. But Ciara O'Sullivan was sent off there.

“That's the third time Maggie (Farrelly) has sent her off in three matches and she doesn't know herself what she went for. Stuff like that.

“The tackle needs to be defined, I think. That's not taking from Dublin's victory on the day.

“They did deserve it but I just do think that the tackle needs to be defined or the LGFA going forward are wasting their time because we don't know what a tick is, we don't know when they are being ticked, we don't know if every foul is a tick or whatever. I don't know.”

Fitzgerald leaves behind a Cork team that has undergone a huge turnover in personnel under his watch. Only seven of the panel that started the 2016 All-Ireland final – which they won – in his first year in charge are still there.

They are closer to Dublin than probably any other side – including Galway who take on the champions in the decider next month – but they were a clear second-best in terms of squad depth and physical conditioning in this semi-final.

And as for his own time in charge?

“I'm delighted really. People were telling me it was a poisoned chalice when I came in with all their success but we won an All-Ireland, three leagues and three Munster championships. So we haven't done too bad.

Obviously the gold standard is the All-Ireland. I accept all that but when you have young girls coming through... Eimear Kiely took her first journey in Croke Park today. Niamh Cotter the same. It's a big deal coming up here no matter what people would think.

“I would like to take the time here to thank my management group: James Masters and Kevin Tattan and ... if I name them all now I'll be leaving out a few, but they have been absolutely fantastic and put in so much time of effort and free of charge.

“We don't take expenses because the girls don't get them.

“That's the type of attitude in there and I would hope whoever takes over would take on that challenge and bring the team forward again and hopefully they will be back up those steps in a year or two again.”

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