MARK FITZGERALD has been appointed as Clare senior football manager on a two year term.
Delegates ratified the appointment of the Kerry native at Tuesday’s meeting of the Clare County Board. He takes over from Colm Collins, the Kilmihil man having served for ten seasons in the role, leading Clare from Division 4 of the Allianz National Football League to Division 2 and reaching two All-Ireland quarter-finals.
Tralee man Fitzgerald emerged as a surprise candidate for the vacancy in the past fortnight after he was overlooked to remain on as Limerick manager. He had been part of Ray Dempsey’s management with the Treaty County last year, Dempsey’s departure in March led to Fitzgerald becoming interim manager.
He was one of three candidates for the Limerick job with the selection committee opting to give Jimmy Lee of Newcastle West the nod ahead of Fitzgerald and former Lissycasey manager John Ryan. Among those joining Lee’s management is Micheál Cahill who had returned as S&C coach to the Clare footballers this season.
Correspondence was issued to clubs on Friday informing them of the Board’s proposal to nominate Fitzgerald, however details on the make-up of his management were not provided to clubs.
Mark follows in the footsteps of Páidí Ó Sé and Mick O’Dwyer, both of whom were the last Kerry men to manage Clare, indeed O’Dwyer was the last ‘outside’ manager of the county footballers.
Ex Limerick captain, Seanie Buckley has been unveiled as head coach of the county senior footballers, as reported by The Clare Echo prior to Tuesday’s meeting. Buckley is currently coach of the Éire Óg senior footballers and has helped them to win back to back Clare SFC titles. During a thirteen year inter-county career, he made forty championship appearances for the Treaty County. The Dromcollogher-Broadford man captained his county to two Division Four League titles in Croke Park, beating Waterford in 2010 and overcoming Offaly in 2013. His impact with Éire Óg has been a big boost to his reputation in a coaching capacity.
Kilrush’s Owen Tarrant is on board as strength and conditioning coach, a role he held with the Mayo footballers last year. He brings with him plenty of experience, having been and S&C coach and assistant sports scientist with the Chiefs Rugby Club in New Zealand. He has been lead S&C coach with Young Munster and Garryowen and for close to two years he was an academy S&C coach with Munster Rugby. Before the Mayo post, he was Head of Performance with Kobe Steelers Rugby and Japan RFU.
Former Clare minor football manager, Joe Garry who is a co-commentator on Clare FM for their football coverage had been linked with a selector’s role but he has confirmed to The Clare Echo that he has not been approached.
Fitzgerald’s selectors and the remainder of his management and backroom team has not been finalised.
Current St Breckan’s boss and former Clare goalkeeper coach, Declan O’Keeffe was also interviewed for the position of Banner boss. The two-time All-Ireland winner was quizzed for the role on Thursday but within less than 24 hours, the correspondence was issued to clubs recommending the proposal of Fitzgerald.
A four-person committee comprised of Clare GAA Head of Operations Deirdre Murphy, Clare GAA Chairman Kieran Keating, ex Clare forward and selector Ger Keane and leading National Football League scorer David Tubridy were tasked with finding a suitable replacement for Collins.
The Clare Echo understands that in their work they met with Mick Bohan who guided Dublin’s ladies footballers to four All-Ireland titles in a row, he has also served as a coach to the Dublin footballers under Jim Gavin and Clare under Colm Collins in 2016. A nephew of Fr Harry Bohan, Mick is reported to have turned down any potential offer owing to time commitments.
Clare U20 football manager Michael Neylon and two-time Clare SFC winning manager of Éire Óg, Paul Madden were also approached about the position but are said to have declined the role.
Speaking at Tuesday’s County Board meeting, Keating told delegates that Fitzgerald had been in the US for some years and got involved in football in his native Kerry. He was part of the Kingdom’s senior panel in 1997 when they were managed by Páidí Ó Sé and was a minor selector for Kerry under the management of James Costello. “He coached at all levels in the county and was very involved with his club Kerins O’Rahillys. He took over as manager in Limerick last year when Ray Dempsey stepped down. We were fortunate to come out on top in a titanic struggle with Limerick for him,” Keating stated.
Responding to a query from Ruan’s Ger Lyons as to the term Fitzgerald was offered in the role, Keating proposed that he be appointed for two years and this was seconded by Tom Duggan of St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield with support from Éire Óg delegate Rory Hickey who commented, “he has a good man with him in Seanie Buckley who has done great work for Éire Óg”.
Keating added, “there were a number of candidates for the position. It’s an attractive role. We know that there are changes coming as a few have gone away and there will be a few retirements. There were some good strong candidates for the position and we felt that he is the best of a good lot”.
*additional reporting by Seamus Hayes