– Emma Duffy reports from Croke Park
CORK LADIES MANAGER Ephie Fitzgerald has stepped down after four years in charge.
The Nemo Rangers man announced the news after the Rebels’ six-point All-Ireland semi-final loss to Dublin at Croke Park this afternoon.
Fitzgerald succeeded Eamonn Ryan at the helm in January 2016, and steered Cork to their 11th All-Ireland title in 12 years in his first season in charge.
That September 2016 victory over Dublin resulted in an All-Ireland six in-a-row, but they have not reached the Holy Grail since.
In 2017, Mayo dumped the Rebels out of the championship at the semi-final stage and they fell short in last year’s showpiece as Mick Bohan’s Sky Blues triumphed on a scoreline of 3-11 to 1-12.
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During Fitzgerald’s reign, he also delivered back-to-back Lidl Ladies National League Division 1 crowns in 2016 and 2017, and another this May.
He steered the Leesiders to Munster crowns in 2016, 2018 and 2019.
“I’ve four years done and I think it is time for a new voice,” he said after today’s loss.
I said I would give it one more year. There is a young squad there and I suppose I have a lot going on. I have a family at home that I probably haven’t given as much time to this past few years as I should have been doing.
“So, there are a lot of factors really. Work and all. But the result today was nothing to do with my decision to step down. That was made a while back.”
Reflecting on his time in the job, he continued: “I’m delighted really. People were telling me it was a poisoned chalice when I came in with all their success but we won an All-Ireland, three leagues and three Munster championships so we haven’t done too bad.
“Obviously the gold standard is the All-Ireland. I accept all that but when you have young girls coming through… Eimear Kiely took her first journey in Croke Park today. Niamh Cotter the same. It’s a big deal coming up here no matter what people would think.
I would like to take the time here to thank my management group: James Masters and Kevin Tattan and… if I name them all now I’ll be leaving out a few but they have been absolutely fantastic and put in so much time of effort and free of charge.
“We don’t take expenses because the girls don’t get them. That’s the type of attitude in there and I would hope whoever takes over would take on that challenge and bring the team forward again and hopefully back up those steps in a year or two again.”
When asked if he feels there’s an All-Ireland title in this Cork side, he added:
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“It is a building process. There are young players there but in terms of conditioning and that you can see how strong the Dublin girls were there today. That’s a level you want to get at after a number of years.
“If you look at the likes of Lyndsey Davey and Sinead Aherne and these girls they have been at it a long time. They have an awful lot of work done and that shows out there. They can put in a strong performance for the 60 minutes whereas we probably flagged a bit towards the finish.
That said, it is a learning curve for our girls. There isn’t a whole lot between the teams. I do believe that, but probably another year or two may of finding one or two more players and hopefully some of the older girls will stay on because it is a huge commitment.
“To be fair to the Dublin girls, they have given it massive commitment. They lost a few finals before they won one and that is testament to their commitment to their county.
“There is a future there for Cork,” he concluded. “An All-Ireland: who knows? But Cork will be competitive going forward. We have only seven of that panel that started in 2016 left so there is certainly talent there.
“We won the league and our Munster Championship and to be competitive in an All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin augurs well for the future.”
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