Saturday 18 November 2017

Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald gets board's backing to see out full term

Banner boss to remain as planned until 2017

The Clare board have said that manager Davy Fitzgerald will see out his contract with the county
The Clare board have said that manager Davy Fitzgerald will see out his contract with the county
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

The Clare County Board has moved quickly to end any speculation about Davy Fitzgerald's future as hurling manager with confirmation that he will see out the remaining two years of his term.

Clare chairman Michael McDonagh confirmed that there would be no review of his position and that they were satisfied that he is the man to continue to lead them.

Fitzgerald was given a year extension after meeting with board officials last July, having been given a three-year extension weeks after the 2013 All-Ireland triumph.

Clare have failed to make All-Ireland quarter-finals for the second successive year, which is traditionally a 'bottom line' for the teams operating at the top level.

Relegation to Division 1B and a failure to reach a Munster final in each of the four years he has been in charge - they have one win in the province from five games - have eroded some of the currency he gained by a spectacular All-Ireland success.

In the immediate aftermath of that win, Fitzgerald correctly predicted a challenging road ahead for his young team.

"Next year will be a very tough year for Clare," he said on the morning after their win over Cork.

"But I can tell you one thing, they will give it everything and I know the year or two after that will be really exciting again because they won't go away."

Two years on and the scale of the challenge Clare have faced has been steeper than even Fitzgerald predicted that morning.

One Championship win from six played is a poor return for a squad populated by so many players who enjoyed such glittering underage careers.

Fitzgerald touched on the load these players have had to bear during the county's most successful underage era.

He is likely to give careful consideration to his backroom team again.

Paul Kinnerk was a valued coach when they won the All-Ireland in 2013, having fulfilled a similar role for the U-21s during their three-in-a-row success from 2012-14 and his loss has clearly been felt.

Kinnerk stepped away last year, with Fitzgerald indicating that he would return for the 2016 season.

But the 29-year-old Kinnerk has since taken up a role as football coaching co-ordinator in his native Limerick and it's thought unlikely he'll return.

Joe O'Connor's departure as strength and conditioning coach also removed a familiar face who had been so influential in the development of the players.

After Saturday night's defeat to Cork, their third to Jimmy Barry-Murphy's team in three meetings since the 2013 final, Fitzgerald was as measured as he has been in these situations, the assistance of a pair of PR eyes since the Limerick defeat serving him well, it seems.

Relaxed

That relative 'zen' state of mind ties in with a general feeling in the county that he needs to take a more relaxed approach to their hurling and even to their preparation.

Too many controversies, surrounding referees, disciplining of players and dual involvement have blown up in their faces.

Their slide from the highs of 2013 has co-incided with Podge Collins' departure from the front line.

Currently recovering from a cruciate ligament injury, Collins, who committed to the footballers for 2014, is a hugely popular figure among these young Clare players and his effervescence was one of the features of 2013.

As much as they need him on the field, they need him off it too, for presence alone.

Their spirit seems to have remained strong though. Anyone who saw the facial expression of Conor Ryan at the final whistle in Thurles will understand what it meant to them to lose.

But with a campaign in Division 1B, the early-season pressure isn't as great in 2016 and it may be best to give players, most of whom have been engaged in U-21 campaigns up to the second week of September, an extended break.

Fitzgerald still has much to offer Clare. But there is much to fix too.

Irish Independent

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