Former Clare star Jamesie O’Connor believes Davy Fitzgerald’s resignation as manager was the right decision because his team had become “stale and predictable”.
Pundit O’Connor reckons his 1995 and 1997 All-Ireland winning colleague won’t be away from management for long but suggested Fitzgerald had come to the end of his natural cycle with Clare after five seasons.
Fitzgerald guided the Banner to breakthrough All-Ireland and Allianz League titles in 2013 and 2016 but walked away on Wednesday due to a lack of support from a section of his panel.
O’Connor agreed that Fitzgerald’s short passing style of play and use of a sweeper had divided opinion in the county and, most likely, in the panel itself.
“To be honest, and it’s only my opinion, we had become stale, the playing style had become predictable,” O’Connor told Clare FM.
“It was easier for the big teams to play against and to defend against and to an extent by allowing the opposition to park an extra defender in front of Shane O’Donnell or Conor McGrath, we were in a way spiking our own guns.
“I think the way the Championship ended up, with the four best teams in the country going at it hammer and tongs, we had three fantastic semi-finals and a final when Kilkenny, even when beaten and not playing well, still managed to hit 2-20, a tally we probably wouldn’t come close to hitting against the better teams we faced this year.
“Every county has its own style. We can’t necessarily turn ourselves into Kilkenny or Tipperary, they’ve got their own styles. But our manager, our next manager, has to find a style that suits the players that we have.
“But certainly I think it was a big issue for the Clare public. The tactics, in my opinion, were gone stale and predictable and I certainly think that we need a change and the new management will have their opinions on that.”
O’Connor toyed with the idea Fitzgerald’s panel may have ‘overachieved’ by winning the All-Ireland in 2013 though said they will still be an attractive group to work with.
“I think the big thing for success, what’s maybe held back teams in other counties, is the lack of forward talent,” said O’Connor.
“They don’t have the marquee forwards capable of getting the scores in the bigger matches.
“In Clare, we have those players. Tony Kelly, Conor McGrath, they’d probably walk into any inter-county team in the country.
“It’s maybe the other bits of the jigsaw that need to be put together. I certainly think the job comes with attractions.
“The age profile of the players is certainly good. These guys now are arguably coming into their peak years.
“But then again, maybe we overachieved, who knows. But certainly whoever takes on the job will feel that there is talent in that group and it’s their job to bring the best out of them.”
O’Connor reckons the Clare public would have no problem with Anthony Daly returning for a second stint in charge or Donal Moloney, who enjoyed huge success alongside Gerry O’Connor with the U-21s, stepping up.
He also name-checked Brian Lohan, another former colleague, who has had success as a coach at University of Limerick in the Fitzgibbon Cup. And he agreed the players should have an input into who is installed in the hot seat.
“If they’re being asked to give the type of commitment that the modern inter-county game demands well then they want the best management in place so I certainly think they should be consulted on it but ultimately it’s the board’s decision,” said the Sky Sports analyst.
“We’re probably lucky in Clare, in one sense, that various names will be bandied around, whether it’s Anthony Daly, whether it’s Donal Moloney, that there are people of high calibre around and it’s up to the board now to see if these people are available and if they’re interested and to appoint the best person they see fit to do the job.
“The players probably should have an input to that but once that person is appointed it’s up to the players to row in behind them.”
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