Ephie Fitzgerald: Rebel with a Clare cause

Ephie Fitzgerald will have the inside track on Cork when he goes into the Clare corner on Sunday, but he’s not going to get caught up in the paralysis of over-analysis, writes Joe Ó Muircheartaigh who spoke to the Nemo Rangers man.TOO much knowledge is a dangerous thing.

Rebel with a Clare cause

Clare coach Ephie Fitzgerald doesn’t quite say this, but his thoughts aren’t a million miles away from this parish when he warns about the paralysis of over-analysis as he sees it when eyeing up the opposition.
He knows what there is to know about Cork — through his involvement with Nemo Rangers over many years and then with the county minors.
Indeed, such is his depth of knowledge when it comes to Cork football that when Conor Counihan stepped down as manager in 2013, Fitzgerald was one of those mooted for the top job before the nod was eventually given to Brian Cuthbert.
But rather than produce spreadsheets and details breakdowns on the Cork players that he could have pieced together himself, he looks to his own instead — in this case the Clare team he’s been with since October last when he replaced Paudie Kissane as the team’s coach.
“It’s a huge challenge but you can’t get too caught up in the opposition,” he says. “All we can do is prepare as best we can. We’ll have our own ideas as how best the game shall go, we will have our own plans in place and hopefully that will be good enough to take us over the line.
“We won’t over emphasise or analyse Cork — you can’t go into too much detail about the opposition because if you do you can get stymied about the opposition, and how good they are.
“You’d be thinking ‘we’re playing Cork’. It would be the same with Kerry or Dublin and that could affect your performance. “We have to focus on what we’re good at ourselves and that’s getting our plans right, our structures on the field right and on top of that hoping that things go well for us on the day.”
For Fitzgerald and Clare it’s enough to know the formidable test that lies ahead — the challenge of embracing it head-on, not being afraid of it and most importantly not getting bogged down in the minutiae of it.
“Cork in terms of football would have a much bigger base that Clare would have. They’d have a much bigger pick and would have a lot of success, particularly at Under 21 level, at provincial level and one All-Ireland included,” says Fitzgerald.
“Those guys are used to winning, so I don’t think Cork can ever go through much of a transition period because of the expectation and the size of the county. Any guy that steps in would be of very good quality.
“It’s a Division 1 team against a Division 3 team and prior to the league final, Cork had been the form team of the competition, while we held our own in Division 3. They’d be playing at a much higher level, so they’d be strong favourites and used to playing much better opposition that we are.
“The league tables don’t lie. We were in Division 4 for a long number of years, got into Division 3 and consolidated in that. Cork have been exposed to Division 1 football over the last few years and played in an All-Ireland quarter-final last year and arguably could have beaten Mayo. They have been getting a lot of experience at a high level. From that point of view they are going to be very formidable,” he adds.
But just as one side of the coin says that the bookies are never too far wrong, the flip side reveals that they don’t always get it right either.
“No matter what way you look at it Cork are eight to one on with the bodies so that reflects what people think in general, but on any given day it’s a two horse race,” says Fitzgerald.
“The injuries are a big blow — there’s no denying that because we don’t have a huge pool of players that we can replace the likes of Podge Collins and Shane Brennan. Podge is a big loss to the team, and not just from the football side of things. Apart from his football ability he’s an All Star and he’s a man who would have no fear at all of the Cork jersey. He’s a fella who’s of the mentality that we can go down there and that we can win this game.
“We’ve prepared very very well — outside of the injuries. We’re very happy with the attitude of the lads. I’ve worked with a lot of teams over they years, but this gang really are willing, focused and committed, make huge sacrifices, train every bit as hard as the Corks or Dublins or any other team.
“Once you do that and have your plans for the day laid out, I don’t think you can ask for any more. Obviously things happen on the day — you need a little bit of luck and for a few decisions to go your way.
“I would be going into the game very confident that anything the lads could have done has been done and that if we really believe in ourselves then we can make this a very difficult day for Cork.”

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