Friday 21 July 2017

Off the Ball: Fitzgerald deserves huge credit for Clare reboot

Davy Fitzgerald (Photo: SPORTSFILE)
Davy Fitzgerald (Photo: SPORTSFILE)

Michael McCarthy

I've been critical of Davy Fitzgerald in these pages before. After winning the All-Ireland in 2013, Clare did not build on that success in the following two campaigns. There were plenty of circumstances and genuine excuses at play, but the manager also made a lot of mistakes, in my opinion.

But we must give credit where it's due. It takes a lot to address your mistakes when you feel under siege, especially when your methods have been successful in the past.

The appointment of Dónal óg Cusack was a ballsy move. He's a massive character in the game of hurling and he's going to take attention away from the manager.

Likewise, bringing coach Paul Kinnerk back into the fold was an essential step forward. Kinnerk is someone who gets a lot of credit for Clare's 2013 success so having him back on board again risks taking credit away from the main man.

Accused

Podge Collins was also invited back to the panel after being told last year there was no place for a dual player in the set-up.

For a man often accused of having an ego, these are selfless and forward-thinking moves that does not suggest an ego out of control.

The results so far have been incredible. Unbeaten in the league, they looked physically and mentally superior to Kilkenny in the semi-final last week. This demolition was managed without David McInerney, Conor Ryan, Shane O'Donnell, Podge Collins and a fully-fit Tony Kelly.

As Davy says himself, it's only April, but it's hard not to see Clare being at least competitive this year. And that's all Clare fans expect. After 2013, we didn't think a Kilkenny-like period of domination was ahead or anything but they underachieved in the last two years.

A first league title since 1978 this Sunday would be a significant marker in making sure that doesn't happen again in 2016.

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