O’Loughlin: Foundations are there for a great team

FOR a man who loves Clare hurling as much Ger ‘Sparrow’ O’Loughlin, the decision to resign as senior manager didn’t come easy.

But on Sunday, following their defeat to Galway in the qualifiers it was a decision he made. After failing to escape from Division Two he was always going to end his term at the head of the Banner county but he still believes the county can return to the glory days of the mid-90s.

“No, it was one that I thought long and hard about,” he said. “Being truthful, I had a wish-list for this year and top of that list was to get out of Division Two. That was always going to determine whether I thought it was best that I stay on or not.

“We put up a decent show in the final against Limerick but were a bit green in conceding the late goals. It’s not running away from the job, but my gut feeling is that a new voice is needed.

“We have such a good young bunch of players, so many more coming through — a new voice with the right quality and the right approach, carefully chosen, should reap the success down the road. It’s the right time for me to go, I feel.”

With that failure to win promotion and the fact that Clare are winless in the championship under his two-year tenure, O’Loughlin’s record does not read too well — but, he says, look beyond the bare statistics.

Clare were very impressive in the Munster championship challenges against eventual champions Waterford (2010) and All-Ireland champions Tipperary (2011).

“When you’re thrown into the deep end after a lot of unsettlement in the county for a few years — as we were — it’s a case first of steadying the ship and we’ve done that.

“You’re getting to know guys, finding out what’s wrong. Being realistic — and you have to be — I knew within a few weeks that this was going to be a slow-burner, that it was going to take a few years before Clare would be a real force again, and that’s still very much the case.

“We also did a lot of other work, established a very professional setup which is now running smoothly, all that augurs well for the future, and if we maintain that progress, if all the boxes are ticked with regard to what the players need, if everyone works well together, plays fair with the players, I think that’s the way to go.

“The hurling side — we brought in a lot of new guys over the last two years, gave them good league experience. We made progress, got to the Division Two final both years, could have won the first one and should have won this one.

“Obviously I’d love to have been involved with a team that I felt was going to be in contention for Munster and All-Ireland honours but I didn’t take the job on an ego-trip, I took it with the intention of getting the rebuilding process under way and I think we’ve done that.”

Far from feeling burned by his two years at the helm, O’Loughlin actually feels energised.

“I have a wife, Helen, two kids, Mark (12) and Emma (seven), and I’m looking forward to a break now with them, doing something we haven’t done for a few years like go on holidays! But I enjoy coaching and managing, wouldn’t be afraid at all of getting involved again at either inter-county level or with club, even at underage with my own club (Clarecastle). That’s where it all begins for us, isn’t it?”

Picture: Ger O’Loughlin: Feels a new voice is now needed in the Clare camp.

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