ALL-IRELAND winner Ger ‘Sparrow’ O’Loughlin is set to be named Clare senior hurling boss following the resignation of Mike McNamara and his management team last night.
McNamara, who held the post for two years, announced his decision to step down along with selectors Alan Cunningham and Ollie Baker at a specially convened meeting of the county board in Ennis.
O’Loughlin was proposed by chairman Michael O’Neill at the meeting, but his position was not ratified with delegates asking for time to discuss the matter with their clubs ahead of tomorrow night’s county convention.
However, O’Loughlin is the only candidate for the post and looks set to be appointed in the next 48 hours.
It brings to an end a lengthy saga in the Banner County which erupted after the 2009 squad expressed a vote of no-confidence in the trio in the wake of a dismal season in both league and championship.
The Banner failed to win any match in the NHL, lost two championship ties before seeing off Wexford in a relegation semi-final.
The panel sent a letter to the Clare County Board in October outlining their grievances and calling for change on the sideline. However, officials supported the management team to remain at the helm for the 2010 campaign.
Subsequently, former All Star Tony Griffin announced his retirement from inter-county hurling.
After a series of postponed meetings, the board, players and McNamara came face-to-face 10 days ago in Ennis but those talks were unable to break the deadlock and none of the parties had met since.
McNamara and his management team were not present at last night’s meeting but a resignation letter on their behalf was read out by Clare secretary Pat Fitzgerald.
County PRO Syl O’Connor last night said that McNamara and his selectors reached the decision “in the best interest of Clare hurling”.
O’Connor explained: “What unfolded was a specially convened meeting in the West County Hotel in Ennis. The executive of the board met first and this was followed by a full meeting of delegates.
“Based on what had happened over the last couple of weeks, the management of the county senior team tendered their resignation in the best interest of Clare hurling.
“They thanked the delegates who had endorsed them and took full responsibility for results this year.
“However they felt that the removal of a certain player from the squad had instigated the unrest which brought them to this juncture and to this decision.
“They said they were stepping down with regret and disappointment but they felt that for the good of Clare hurling this was the only move which was left open to them.”
O’Connor revealed there was huge sympathy amongst delegates for the trio.
“A lot of those present felt it was a sad night for Clare GAA. Many said that the county had lost three great hurling men in this dispute.”
The discussion then turned to who would take charge of the team for 2010.
O’Connor continued: “Ger Sparrow’s name was proposed by chairman Michael O’Neill as he had a mandate to put a management team in place. While no one objected to ‘Sparrow’, a number of delegates asked if they could get time to go back to their clubs and discuss the matter ahead of Thursday night’s convention.
“It is expected that Ger will be endorsed on Thursday night as the new Clare senior hurling manager.
“Both the chairman of the board and outgoing hurling manager Mike McNamara stressed that they want a line drawn in the sand and all want to put Clare hurling back where it should be as quickly as possible.”
O’Loughlin, who won Celtic Crosses as a corner forward in 1995 and 1997, has enjoyed tremendous success on the sideline with Adare guiding them to the last Limerick SHC titles. The Clarecastle native also served as a senior selector with his native county for the 2003 season.
Former team-mate and Waterford manager Davy Fitzgerald earlier this month backed O’Loughlin for the host seat. “Clare needs a strong hand at the moment and that’s just what Ger would give,” said the former All Star goalkeeper.
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