CLARE County Board chairman Michael McDonagh has flatly denied that the organisation is anti-democratic, following its actions this week in seeking to quash debate on the future of senior hurling manager Davy Fitzgerald.
Clubs were not consulted on the decision to back the manager, which McDonagh released to the public, via a national newspaper, on Tuesday. Although the decision regarding management has already been made, he says clubs can voice their views at the September county board meeting.
McDonagh insists the original decision to extend Davy Fitzgerald’s term by three years was made at a full county board meeting in 2013 and that board officers are merely following through on that. He also claimed that the Clare players are fully supportive of this decision, despite the fact that they have won only a single championship game in two years, along with suffering relegation to Division 1 B.
“As an officer board, we spoke with each other and we also spoke with the majority of the players in the panel. The indicated to me that for them to go forward, they wanted Davy Fitzgerald as manager and they have reiterated that. The players are a crucial part in this set-up,” the board chairman said.
Asked if the players should be deciding who is managing them, McDonagh said they had earned the right to a view on the issue.
“These players are men who have won All-Irelands, All-Stars and have represented Clare at every level. They believe that they have underachieved this year and last year. They believe that the right management is in place. There has been a lot of controversy going on in social media and they have asked me to get the players’ message out there. That’s what I have done,” he explained.
The board chairman said that while the county board executive did not meet this week, they made their decision to offer public support to Davy Fitzgerald, following a number of telephone conversations.
“The officers of the county board are fully behind Davy Fitzgerald going forward. This week, we spoke to each other, as an officer board, over the phone. We made a decision. We also spoke to the people who assist us in the background, including our sponsor. The bottom line is that the controversy was being fuelled in the media. The players themselves have taken the lead here. The [original] decision was made by a full executive meeting of the Clare County Board after winning the All-Ireland in 2013. Davy’s period of time is not up at this stage,” McDonagh pointed out.
Pressed on whether the clubs would be given a chance to either support or question the performance of the Clare management and the team, McDonagh said that this would happen in September.
“I will be allowing a discussion on it at the next county board meeting. The players and the management will be doing their own review and we will be reviewing it with them as well. Anybody that wants to discuss it will be let discuss it. The clubs will be able to have a review going forward with the management and with the players themselves. The players will have their own review as well. I think everybody has to take stock here,” he said, adding that he believes he knows the conclusion the clubs will come to.
“I think the clubs would take a very sound decision and they would listen to the players. A lot of these players are very seasoned people, who have worn that Clare jersey with pride. I think that they would listen to what their players are saying, that there is more in this Clare team,” he maintained.
The board chairman denied that a disconnect has arisen between the hurling set-up and the public. A small Clare crowd attended both championship games in Thurles this year but McDonagh said that the attendance for the qualifier defeat of Offaly in Ennis indicates that this assertion is incorrect.
“We had 14,000 people in Ennis, the biggest crowd ever, at the Offaly game. That’s not a small crowd. I think that was the biggest crowd that was at any game in the qualifiers this year,” he replied.
The Miltown Malbay clubman disputed the suggestion that the county board is embracing failure by not at least reviewing the year, prior to offering public support to the management.
“No. Everybody is disappointed that we have only won one championship game in two years. But you have to remember and you have to agree with this, a lot of these lads are playing colleges hurling, U-21 hurling and senior hurling with their clubs. A couple of them are playing football and they are playing with their county. The bottom line is they know what it takes and we have to give them a chance.
“It’s not so long ago that this team won an All-Ireland. I think next year we have to listen to senior players and what they are saying. What we have done is for the best interests of Clare going forward in 2016; we believe that there is another All-Ireland in this team. The players themselves believe there is another All-Ireland. They believe there is a lot of mis-truths being put out in the media. The bottom line is they wanted that clarified. If you talk to any of the people involved in the scene and running the GAA, they will tell you the same thing. We needed a quick decision. The Clare County Board made a decision through the clubs in 2013 and we’re honouring that decision. The clubs have made that decision. It’s not me,” he maintained.