Davy Fitzgerald last night stepped down as Clare manager despite efforts by the county executive, sponsor Pat O’Donnell and several players to persuade him to stay on.
Currently holidaying in South Carolina, the 45-year-old was believed to be hurting having taken the decision but accepted it was the right thing to do “in the best interests of Clare hurling”.
Following the Irish Examiner’s news on Tuesday Fitzgerald was set to announce his resignation, he was contacted by chairman Joe Cooney, O’Donnell as well as players who wanted him to confront the issues brought forward by some prominent members of the panel who wished for a change of management.
That flies in the face of suggestions Fitzgerald was requested to step down in the wake of player power. The Sixmilebridge man had asked joint-captains Cian Dillon and Tony Kelly to gauge the feelings of the panel, which was done in a meeting in The Clare Inn on Monday night.
Although a small number of players had heavily canvassed others in support of change, a strong majority remained loyal to the manager. It is believed the county executive, who weren’t alerted to any misgivings about Fitzgerald seeing out the final year of his current term in 2017, wish to discuss the matter with those players.
In a statement released last night, Fitzgerald remarked: “One of the greatest privileges of my life has been to manage the Clare senior hurling team and I am immensely proud of the success achieved during my time at the helm.
“After this year’s All- Ireland quarter-final defeat to Galway, I was undecided about my future and I indicated as much to the players in the dressing room post-match. In the weeks that followed, I asked the joint captains to ascertain the opinions of the wider panel on whether they would like a change of voice. In light of the ensuing meeting and the divided opinions expressed by players, I have decided it would be in the best interests of Clare hurling that I step down from the role of manager.”
Fitzgerald maintained his course of action was of his own making. “I was not asked to step down. The decision is entirely my own,” he said and continued: “In taking this decision, I wish to reaffirm my absolute love and passion for Clare hurling. I will cherish the memory of seeing so many happy Clare faces when in 2013 we won what was only the county’s fourth All-Ireland title and again in Thurles last May when we were crowned National League champions for the first time in 38 years. The Clare players were heroes on both days and it is my belief they will lift Liam MacCarthy again in the near future.”
The two-time All-Ireland winning goalkeeper also articulated his appreciation for his supporters ranging from his various selectors to board officials to the players and supporters. “I want to express my sincere thanks to the respective backroom teams which have served alongside me for the past five seasons. It was a real pleasure to work with people of the highest calibre. I want to thank the Clare County Board for their tremendous support, Pat O’Donnell for his constant and generous sponsorship and support and the players for being a key part of my life over the past five years.
“I want to thank the supporters and acknowledge the many people who travelled great distances to support their county. I leave the Clare job with a heavy heart but confident there will be further great hurling days for the Banner County.”
Should Fitzgerald not be involved in inter-county hurling in 2017, it will break a 26-year association. Along with him now goes Dónal Óg Cusack, Michael Brown, Seoirse Bulfin, Louis Mulqueen and Aonghus O’Brien and strength and conditioning team Kelvin Harold and Jimmy Payne.
Speculation will now turn to who will take over from Fitzgerald with former manager and Irish Examiner columnist Anthony Daly the firm favourite. The county’s three-time U21 All-Ireland winning pair of Donal Moloney and Gerry O’Connor will also come in for consideration as will UL manager Brian Lohan.
Clare chairman Joe Cooney said: “In fairness to Davy Fitzgerald, he achieved a lot during his playing days, winning county, Munster and All-Ireland titles. In his five years as Clare manager, he achieved a lot, winning an All-Ireland in 2013 and the league in 2016, major achievements.
“The team were coming back to form this year, losing just two games unfortunately against Waterford and Galway. After two lean years before that, those two matches probably didn’t help the situation but Davy has been a brilliant GAA man. It has come to this now but I compliment him and thank him for what he has done for Clare both as a player and as a manager.”
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