Davy Fitz: It was my call to quit, I wasn't forced to
Davy Fitzgerald's five-year reign as Clare hurling coach officially came to an end last night.
In a statement, Fitzgerald - who is currently on holiday in America - insisted he had stepped down from the post he had held since October 2011 entirely of his own volition, though he acknowledged the "divided opinions expressed by players" about his continued tenure at a meeting on Monday night convinced him to walk away "in the best interests of Clare hurling."
"After this year's All-Ireland Quarter Final defeat to Galway, I was undecided about my future and I indicated as much to the players in the dressing room post-match," the statement read.
"In the weeks that followed, I asked the Joint Captains (Tony Kelly and Cian Dillon) to ascertain the opinions of the wider panel on whether they would like a change of voice.
"In light of the ensuing meeting and the divided opinions expressed by players, I have decided that it would be in the best interests of Clare hurling that I step down from the role of manager."
It is understood that while Fitzgerald's resignation was effectively player-driven, there is no bad blood between the two sides.
"I will cherish the memory of seeing so many happy Clare faces when in 2013 we won what was only the County's fourth All-Ireland title and again in Thurles last May when we were crowned National League Champions for the first time in 38 years," he went on.
"The Clare players were heroes on both days and it is my belief they will lift Liam McCarthy again in the near future."
"I was not asked to step down. The decision is entirely my own. In taking this decision however, I wish to reaffirm my absolute love and passion for Clare hurling.
The statement concluded: "I leave the Clare job with a heavy heart but full of confidence that there will be further great hurling days for The Banner County."
Fitzgerald had already intimated that he would prefer to take on another team if he did leave the Clare job, though Wexford and Offaly are the only Liam MacCarthy counties currently looking for a new senior manager.
Fitzgerald's manager during his two All-Ireland wins as a player in 1995 and '97, Ger Loughnane, reckons "the smoothness and speed with which this is happening is very good for Davy, the players and Clare hurling in general."
It is believed that seven players had informed officials from their clubs to notify officers of the Clare county board that they no longer wished to be considered for selection as long as Fitzgerald remained as manager.
Loughnane insisted that: "Davy going now will avoid division among players, which is something that nobody wants to see
Praising his former goalkeeper as having made "an unmatched contribution to Clare hurling over so many years."
"First as a player and then as a coach and manager," Loughnane added that "everybody realised at the end of this year's Championship that the show was over. Supporters realised it and players realised it.
"It is unfair to project this as a lack of success. It's a failure to get the best out of the talent that's there over the last two years especially.
"You get one year's grace after winning an All-Ireland, but the displays this year and last year in the Championship have been terrible."