Anthony Daly sets early pace as Clare hunt for Davy Fitz successor
Published 23/09/2016 | 02:30
The last line of Davy Fitzgerald's resignation statement said that he was "full of confidence that there will be further great hurling days for the Banner County" and the race is already well under way to see who will write the next Clare chapter.
Not since Len Gaynor departed in 1994 has there been an 'outsider' in charge of the Clare hurlers - with Ger Loughnane, Cyril Lyons, Anthony Daly, Mike McNamara, Tony Considine, Ger O'Loughlin and Fitzgerald subsequently manning the Banner sidelines - so it's odds-on that the appointment will be in-house.
With an array of talent at the county's disposal, there is likely to be much interest in the position but pressure within Clare is fierce, with many growing tired of their underwhelming performances since landing Liam MacCarthy three years ago.
The Clare public believe they have the players to compete without overcomplicating matters tactically, and the new boss will need to be modern, while maintaining old-style traditions.
Many of the potential candidates are Fitzgerald's former team-mates.
Here are the five leading contenders to lead the Banner in 2017:
1. Anthony Daly
Having captained Clare to All-Ireland success in 1995 and '97, Daly is already a Banner icon and has vastly more experience of management at inter-county level since his previous stint in charge (2004-06) when they were a consistent force despite going through a major transition at the end of a golden era.
A decade later, the charismatic Clarecastle man may feel the time is right to return. He always made his intentions clear about a second coming and after leading Dublin to landmark league (2011) and Leinster (2013) titles, as well as coaching Limerick minors to this year's All-Ireland decider, he is the front-runner.
2. Gerry O'Connor and Donal Moloney
The dynamic duo have enjoyed unprecedented success with Clare underage sides - notably a famous three-in-a-row of U-21 All-Ireland crowns from 2012 to '14 which were won in tremendous style, and they may be shortlisted either as a pair or individually.
Paul Kinnerk was hugely involved in their U-21 success and his recent departure to Limerick may be a stumbling block.
But many of the stars of those teams, including Tony Kelly and Colm Galvin, have assumed leadership status with the seniors and may wish to continue their inter-county journey with the men who moulded so much of their underage careers; the time could be right for them to step up.
3. Anthony Cunningham
Given how Fitzgerald's reign ended, it would be ironic if Cunningham were to replace him, seeing as his four-year term in Galway ended after irreconcilable differences between players and management, and while it may be a left-field selection, his managerial pedigree shouldn't be discounted after leading Galway to All-Ireland final appearances in 2012 and '15 .
The St Thomas' man has made no bones about his desire to return to inter-county management, having been a late addition to the Laois football set-up earlier this year,but he is likely to be overlooked for a home-grown replacement.
4. Brian Lohan
After a decorated playing career, the red-helmeted rock of the Clare defence has made a slower step into management than expected but when he called for a root and branch analysis of the Clare senior hurlers' performances after last year's early Qualifier exit, many translated that as Lohan signalling his intentions for the top job.
A selector on the Cratloe team that contested the 2014 Munster club final, and manager of the UL side that won the Fitzgibbon Cup in 2015 and were defeated after extra-time this year, his lack of inter-county experience is likely to be a drawback.
5. Ger O'Loughlin
Another double All-Ireland winner in saffron and blue, 'Sparrow', much like Daly, took charge of his native county for three years (2009-11) but if selected, this term would be in completely different circumstances.
While his clubmate got the tail end of a special generation, O'Loughlin was not so fortunate and inherited a group low on confidence and minus star power.He enjoyed success with Limerick's Kilmallock as they went all the way to the club finals on St Patrick's Day but is unlikely to get a second chance just a handful of years after his first attempt.